Two Year Anniversary

We’re coming up now on the two year mark. It was Dec 28th, 2013, when we convened a motley crew of 20 people from our East Coast network at The Keep here in DC for the inaugural meeting of Point A. At the time we thought it’d be hard to find people interested in doing something as crazy and intense as trying to start a fully income sharing urban commune with an ambitious program of community support and radical transformative social change. Boy were we wrong. Two years later we’re operating in four cities on the East Coast, are being asked to operate in two more, and might have accidentally helped inspire a commune on the West Coast (oops!). With so many things happening and on the verge of happening it seemed like a good time to start putting out a newsletter.

Back in January I moved up to DC from Acorn Community in Virginia to be an on the ground organizer for the DC Point A commune. I’m a living example of the communes’ ability to easily support members in their unpaid activism: Acorn has given me a year of economic support in which to organize the DC commune so I can throw my all into the project without worrying about supporting myself at the same time. As I come to the end of that year it looks like we’re on track to have a new commune spun up for me to slide smoothly into. Over the last year a lot has happened. I’ve organized or spoken at events here in DC, over in Baltimore at the Baltimore Free Farm, all the way up in NYC, and even, enchantingly, in Madrid and Gijón. We’ve doubled the size of the core group in DC, gotten the word out to scores of people, gotten the UDC Community Development Law Clinic to help us figure out how to incorporate, lined up financing, and found and started negotiations on a few likely properties. Most importantly the core group has been meeting regularly, building relationships with each other, and figuring out what sort of culture and community we are interested in cultivating at the commune.

Although there are many obvious differences between urban and rural communes (as well a many similarities) there’s one big difference I wasn’t expecting when we started this project. At the beginning, when Paxus and I put together our dream list of initial recruits we included people from all over the East Coast assuming that we’d get together, pick a place to start, and all move there. What we were told in that first meeting was exactly the opposite: people wanted to build communal communities in the cities they called home. At the rural communes our members come from all over the place, often traveling a significant distance to visit or move in. Locals are a rarity at the rural communes (although not unheard of). Interest in the Point A communes, in constrast, comes largely from current residents of the cities. An easy majority of the DC group, for instance, grew up in the DC area and nearly all of them are both already living here and plan to make DC their forever home regardless of whether or not they are members of the commune. This gives a very different flavor to the form of the community and work that we will be doing.

Open House: Lamont Street Collective and Las Indias

Join us for Point A’s second open house hosted by the Lamont Street Collective (http://www.lamontstreetcollective.net/). Hear about the project and meet the folks already involved over a delicious brunch. Challenge your notions of what is possible, and strive with us to create a kinder, more beautiful, and more sustainable world.

We’ll also be featuring (by videophone) guests from Las Indias (http://english.lasindias.com/what-is-las-indias), an anarchist transnational nomadic cyberpunk commune currently based in Spain. An incredible collective pushing prefigurative anarchism into the 21st century and beyond. Our conversation with them will be conducted in both English and Spanish.

JOIN US
Sunday Sept 20th @ 11am
Lamont Street Collective
1822 Lamont St NW
Washington, DC

11am: Brunch
11:30am: Introducing Point A
12pm: Las Indias
12:30pm: Discussion of Communes in the Networked Age
…and perhaps an art game!

RSVP on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1473531842952704/

We Are Not Selling a Product

A few days ago several people sent me this article about co-living in New York City. Co-living came to national attention a year and a half ago when co-living groups in the San Francisco bay area, like the Embassy and Campus networks and Open Door Development, got a flurry of press attention (here, there, and elsewhere).

I spent some time trying to reach out to the folks mentioned in the story and am still unclear about whether the stories described a genuinely new thing (communal living updated for the networked age) or simply an old thing (group houses) with good branding and fancy websites made by people whose success in life depends on their ability to cast what they’re doing as innovative and disruptive. The label encompassed diverse assortment of houses, networks, and projects that sometimes shared little in common aside from a demographic and not all of whom were aware that they were being labeled as “co-living” spaces.

It was an interesting development of ambiguous meaning that I’ve continued to keep an eye on and occasionally try to research further. At best they could harbor some innovative ideas on how to adapt collective cooperative living to the modern networked age, its technology, its economy, and its culture. At worst, it was group houses for the techie crowd and its aspiring capitalists. Harmless enough.

The recent story in the New York Times highlights a different model, though, and raises different worries.

The article describes several attempts, mostly in New York, to commodify the group living experience, in one case by a single landlord but in others by corporations. The whole thing strikes me as a quixotic recuperative attempt by capitalism.

Much has been written about the ways that capitalism and consumerism, sometimes accidentally and sometimes intentionally, leads to isolation, alienation, the destruction of community, and the impoverishment of meaning. Because of this we have been, for some time but especially recently, in the midst of a realization of the value of what has been lost and a mass attempt to recapture it. The longing for community, authenticity, and meaning has spawned, in whole or in part, the back to the land movement, the local food movement, intentional communities of all stripes, foodies generally, the tiny house movement. Sometimes this quest for meaning and connection has led to radical departures from and alternatives to capitalism. Sometimes it has led down a path of quick recuperation with capital once again creating spectacles and commodities that promise community, connection, and meaning.

The problem, of course, is that capitalism is structurally incapable of fulfilling these very human needs. Community is the result of a web of relationships and arises where people have some common context or experience choose to enter into relationship with each other as equals. Hierarchies and inequalities make free and authentic relating nearly impossible. It is a deeply and essentially democratic process and simply cannot be enforced from above or outside and thus cannot be packaged and sold. Meaning, similarly, is something that can only be generated by a person through experiences that are important to them. Objects themselves have no inherent meaning or authenticity. Those qualities are imparted by the relationships that they take part in. You can no more buy meaning than you can buy love.

co_living cartoonThe New York City Co-Living projects profiled in the article are trying to take something essentially internal and induce it from outside. They promise that through them you can buy satisfying friendships and meaningful experiences. But they can only awkwardly ape the results that cooperative communities achieve spontaneously. Their communities are doomed to be hollow simulacra with all the appearance of a cooperative community of peers but none of the guts that actually make it work. Should a genuine community arise it will be a happy accident and would exist in an awkward tension with the profit driven owners who were not responsible for it but will try always to charge for it (a commonplace strategy of the networked age).

Although in a way I am happy for him, the story of the chef who moved into a Pure House property and describes how satisfying it is that people ask him how his day was when he gets home makes me sad. He has to pay $2400 or more per month to get friends to live with. And even those friends, so dearly bought, do not stay.

The whole idea presented in this article reminds me of a management handbook I once read. It began by explaining how study after study and anecdote after anecdote showed that morale was better, productivity was higher, absenteeism was rarer, and creativity and effort flowed in abundance when workers on a project felt like equal partners, felt like they had real agency and freedom, basically when they felt empowered. It then went on to suggest ways to trick your employees into thinking they were equal empowered partners without actually changing any of the fundamental power dynamics in the corporation.

income sharing venn diagramThe idea of a cooperative community of equals is an incomprehensible absurdity to capitalism because it exists outside of the profit-seeking and individualist paradigm. There is no way to understand it within those paradigms. To attempt to privatize, systematize, and commodify such a thing is to destroy it.

They are doomed.

Point A DC’s Inaugural Open House

If you’re in the Washington, D.C. area, join us this Sunday to learn more about our egalitarian, income-sharing, ambitious and engaged commune in the capital city!

This is a great chance to learn about Point A and meet folks already involved in the project. Hear updates, ask questions, challenge your notions of what is possible, and strive with us to create a kinder, more beautiful, and more sustainable world. We’ll also be featuring guests from similar projects around the US: Amelia from Emma Goldman Finishing School (an egalitarian income sharing commune in Seattle) and Cole from The Midden (an egalitarian income sharing commune in Columbus, OH).
View full details and map and on the event page.

 

New Communities in Washington DC?!

We are constantly guessing when and what type of events we should be organizing in order to spark the new communities movement. This time we clearly guessed right.

Triple Threat organizing discussion groups

We had about 70 people at this quickly organized event.  We crowded the Keep with enthusiastic and chatty folks. Many were experienced community people but for most of the group this was relatively new stuff.

John Keep describes his collective house and their trajectory towards income sharing

Lovely food and engaging conversation were had. After GPaul did a wild and woolly version of open space technology, we broke into working groups talking about:

I was in the healing discussion group which was held in part in an empty Jacuzzi tub.

There were a lot of people richly chatting in the Keep kitchen

It was a lovely warm up for our content in NYC this coming weekend, the Community Matchmaking (see Facebook Invite) event. Here is the evolving program for that event, being held at the Brooklyn Free School.

GPaul at the helm

All photos by Dragon

 

Pressing the PANYC button

Names have power.  I spent years going to a summer environmental youth festival in Europe called “Ecotopia”.  Regular participants consider themselves Ecotopians. We talked about “Ecotopian Principals”.  When things went well, we marveled at the “Ecotopia spirit”.  It was originally the title of a book by Ernest Callenbach, who coined it in his 1975 popular classic, which was a prophetic tale of the Northwest region of the US succeeding and reversing industrial capitalism.  But the name  quickly went on to mean much more to many people.   If we had, for example, called it Summer Green Fest, we would have identified with it less deeply and it might well have died a decade sooner.Ecotopia landscapeSome of the best names are ones which occur organically.  I remember when we were designing an all womens anti-nuclear office in Prague which was staffed by internationals.  Emily said “Why don’t we just call it the Prague International Anti-Nuclear Office?”  I said “don’t you think that is a little long?” She said “We would call it PIANO for short, the acronym.”  Instantly there was no other choice, we just started calling it Piano from that day on.

The Point A project wrestled a bit initially with what to call ourselves, we wanted a good name.  But the more we talked about it, we realized that the communities that the project created would have their own names, identities and origin stories – so a good name would be nice, and i like Point A, personally.  But it is not a brilliant name.

Busy people compress things.  Your goodbyes are shorter, repetitive tasks get shaved by seconds where you can and multi-word names you have to type repeatedly become acronyms.  Point A has a growing number of specific urban sub-projects (including currently DC, NYC, Baltimore and Richmond).  So i started writing Point A – NYC and then PA – NYC and finally PANYC.  omg what a great name.Dont-PanicWe are often told “don’t panic”, not just in the context of the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, but to maintain order.  From where i sit, if we follow this strategy the chances for the planet to survive are vanishingly small.  The people who want us to stay calm are often the same ones who think Climate Disruption is not a thing.  They think business as usual is the way to go and they most certainly think that we should respect the powers that be and the current authority structure.

Cartoon-Climate-Disruption

Totally a thing.

I could not disagree more. We need to be panicking.  We need to be doing things dramatically differently.  Business as usual is suicide, convenient and lucrative for a tiny fraction of the population, certainly.  But no less suicide for the planet and everyone we care about. Well see if the other folks in the project are as excited as i am by this name and the implications.  But i have a spring in my step just thinking about it.

Income Sharing Across The Pond

This summer I traveled through Europe visiting urban and near-urban income sharing egalitarian communes as I went.  My goal was to find ideas and inspirations for the Point A project and to find stories of other people who have done the sort of thing we are proposing so that it seems more real and feasible.  In Denmark, Germany, and Spain I found a diverse collection of communes all of whom had lessons and stories to impart.  What happens when the wider culture takes on the project of your commune and surpasses it?  What would it look like to trust each other with our entire lives?  What exactly is a cyberpunk commune?

Give it a listen and think about what we could do here.

Point A Events NYC Aug 17, Baltimore Aug 18, DC Aug 19

Hey, folks!

Get ready, because Point A is coming to you in August! GPaul’s coming back from Europe and spreading the good word of community at events in three cities. We feel bad about the short notice, and please come to these events if you can. These are all workshop and presentation type events. Please do promote these events, even if you can’t make it. Any questions feel free to call Paxus at 541-505-0803. Please RSVP on Facebook (if you use it) if you are planning on coming. The first link in each of the three events below is the Facebook page.

1) NYC Sunday Aug 17th 8 PM @ Brooklyn Free School
2) Baltimore Monday Aug 18th 5:30 PM @ Baltimore Free Farm
3) DC Tuesday Aug 19th 7 PM @ The Keep

Event #1: Point A’s August NYC Learn-In

Brooklyn Free School
Sunday, August 17 from 8pm to 1am

Join us for August’s Point A event at the Brooklyn Free School in NYC! Come for an evening of workshops/presentations/discussions, brainstorming and networking!

FEATURING: Tales of European Communes by GPaul of Acorn Community and the State of the Point A Project in NYC

He’s just spent most of his summer wandering Europe in search of egalitarian, income-sharing, secular, and democratic communes. A rare breed in the US, he found them littered about Europe. Come hear tales of radical trust based economics, what happens when the national culture takes on your commune’s mission, and what exactly an anarchist cyberpunk transnational commune looks like. A wide variety of stories with comparisons to the American egalitarian communes and attempted distillations of important wisdoms and inspirations.

State of the Commune – Point A NYC

The advantage of a recklessly defined project is that many of NYCs exotic aspects can be captured within it. We have glimpsed at traveler kids and their squats, we are talking with worker coops about becoming residential communities. We are working with existing NYC based communities to be fostered in our efforts to create something new. We have been inspired by radical hospitality spaces where temporary community is being created that might be a model for our next adventures. This project is still forming, come add you insights into how we can build more income sharing community inside the 5 boroughs.

Visit the Point A website join the official Facebook group for the latest news on the Point A project. Donations requested and appreciated.

Event #2: Egalitarian Tours of Europe in Baltimore

Baltimore Free Farm
Monday, August 18 at 5:30pm

GPaul, of Acorn Community and the Point A Project, has just spent most of his summer wandering Europe in search of egalitarian, income-sharing, secular, and democratic communes. A rare breed in the US, he found them littered about Europe. Come hear tales of radical trust based economics, what happens when the national culture takes on your commune’s mission, and what exactly an anarchist cyberpunk transnational commune looks like. A wide variety of stories with comparisons to the American egalitarian communes and attempted distillations of important wisdoms and inspirations.

Event #3: European Egalitarian IC Tour in D.C.

The Keep – Washington, DC
Tuesday, August 19 at 7:00pm

GPaul, of Acorn Community and the Point A Project, has just spent most of his summer wandering Europe in search of egalitarian, income-sharing, secular, and democratic communes. A rare breed in the US, he found them littered about Europe. Come hear tales of radical trust based economics, what happens when the national culture takes on your commune’s mission, and what exactly an anarchist cyberpunk transnational commune looks like. A wide variety of stories with comparisons to the American egalitarian communes and attempted distillations of important wisdom and inspirations.

We All Deserve Anarchism

Back in February I was interviewed by KMO for his podcast C-realm.  The interview covered Acorn and Twin Oaks, the communes in Virginia that I have the most experience with (having lived at Acorn for 9 years), and then continued to discuss the applicability of the democratic and egalitarian structure of the communes to the world at large.  The interview with me starts at 19:00 but the whole thing is worth listening to.

C-Realm 404: We All Deserve Anarchism

Communities Quest – March 15th, Brooklyn NYC

This is a new event the Point A project is organizing in Brooklyn.  If you are in the city and interested in community, please consider coming by.  If you have material to present, please email me and we will see if we can get you into the program.  If you have a residential community project in the greater NYC area, consider coming and presenting about it during the “Meet the Communities” section of this event.  If you do Facebook, please RSVP here.

Community Quest: Finding and Building Collective Living Situations in NYC  –

Saturday March 15th noon to 6:30 PM at the Brooklyn Urban dZong (the BUZ) located at 778 Bergen St. 2FL, Brooklyn, New York 11238 [A few blocks from Clinton-Washington Ave A or C lines and ten minute walk from the Grand Army Plaza 2, 3, and 4 lines]

Communities begin as conversations.  Rich chats about dreams and pragmatic discussions on logistics and finances. These are visionary talks about where we want to get to and concrete discussions of what the first steps to take are.  Most communities don’t get beyond the start up conversation stage.

It takes all kinds of conversations.

This one day event is designed to help people who are seeking to join or start residential intentional communities find like-minded others and discover new or established communities in the NYC area.  Come present your forming or existing community to people who might join you or otherwise be allies.  Here is the forming agenda for the event.

Communities Quest Program – March 15th, 2014

This event runs noon to 6:30 PM as is happening at the Brooklyn Urban dZong (BUZ)  778 Bergen St Brooklyn NYC.  RSVP here

General Overiew

Noon to 1 PM Panel discussion on successful & failed NYC communities

1 to 2:30 PM Meet the Communities and selection of workshops

2:45 to 4 PM – First Workshop Block

4:15 to 5:30 PM – Second Workshop Block

5:45 to 6:30 PM – Next Steps and exit networkingparadise.jpg

The following sections are plenary format (everyone in the same room, only one set of speakers):

noon to 1: Panel on Successes and Failures of Community

1 to 2:30 PM:  Meet the Communities AND workshop selection

5:45 to 6:30 PM Next Steps and Exit Networking

 

A $5 donation is requested, but no one is turned away due to a lack of funds.

rooftop garden.jpeg

Rooftop Garden in Shanghi

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]