Podcast 310 is the second of a three piece series with Diana Leafe Christian discussing intentional community. Diana begins the podcast with a truism coined by her friend and the founder of the Co-Housing Association of America Zev Paiss:
“Community is the longest, most expensive, personally growth workshop you will ever take.”
The amount of time, money, and emotion vested in creating a community from scratch can be immense and there is the inherent risk of failure. Regardless, it offers great opportunity for personal growth, to learn about oneself, others, and human nature as a whole. It gives one a chance to accept feedback and adapt, to correct course . And as anyone here at permies already likely knows, community can often be consciousness raising and spiritually boosting as well as.
That said, there are often difficult personalities or personality traits at play, and that quickly becomes the first topic addressed.
Paul and Diana both speak to their experiences. Paul mostly speaks on alcoholics, addicts, and those who feel like they ‘need’ the support offered by community. Dianne speaks mostly to those who have unresolved issues which often manifest as varying degrees of ‘touchiness’. Dianne says that generally and in her experience addicts et cetera are generally at least aware of their issues on some level while people with unhealed trauma often are not. All they know is that “the world is full of assholes” who are put pressure on their delicate points and cause them a great deal of stress and distress.
Diana stresses that unless you are absolutely (and she adds professionally) prepared to deal with issues such as addiction as the primary purpose and intent of your community that the best practice is to have a a good screening process. She stresses that there are all sorts of community all having different standards and different goals and it is important to build a community around those standards and goals and there should be a clear consistent method for governance and decision making in the community.
When difficulties begin to arise within the community between existing members, particularly when centered around one member or one type of behavior, Dianne suggests employing a method she calls “Many Raindrops make a flood”. This method involves the aggrieved members of the community coming together and agreeing to apply consistent persistent pressure on the person with the odious habit or tick by administering a mild comment every time it is warranted. A simple “Please don’t do that” given consistently and by many community members will generally force an introspection and adaptation. Or, conversely, annoy and anger the perpetrator to the point that they decide to leave to community rather than have to “put up with any more of this shit!”. Either way the community wins.
Then, almost as if rehearsed and on cue, Diana and Paul get into a disagreement over language and appropriate responses originating in part around the different cultures of expectation around language and what uses of it are to be considered appropriate. The crux of the argument centered around Paul’s theoretical response to having his speech infringed and his anger at others wanting him to live a “pathetic little life” like them. Diana insists that the personal nature of the language is needlessly inflammatory, hostile, and in violation of Paul’s’ own rules and principles. She bull-doggedly sticks to this one point while Paul discusses why he feels the need to shut down such things so harshly and how he operates under two separate sets of rules; one for Richsoil and one for permies and how “be nice” actually means to “be nice according to Paul’s standard of what is nice” and how that makes him technically correct. Which is the best sort of correct.
They agree to disagree and move on to talk about community Founders and how they are often “Type A” personalities. What happens when they are too “Type A”?
Paul talks a bit about communities where this has happened as well as communities where the founder was kicked off his own land and project and where is the justice in that? Paul has referred to this before as ‘Founder Syndrome’. Diana corrects Paul saying that “Founder Syndrome” Actually can be one of two issues. 1) Where the founder is actually being difficult and is being called on their own BS. and 2) Where the community is projecting its own problems upon the founder.
She insists however that any community which can cast out the owner and founder is one which had a really bad Organization, Governance, and decision making model. This happening is one of the main reasons Diana has moved away from advocating consensus based systems. It is important to have sound design structure for a community that is clear but also adaptable.It is important that their be checks and balances and specific previsions which must be adhered to once agreed upon.
Paul talks about how every community is less than perfect and that there is a necessity for evolution and striving for perfection even if it will never be reached. He also says that all though community must be adaptable the rules should still have meaning and be less mutable than those found in say, Animal Farm, a portrait of a dysfunctional community if ever there was one.
Diana more or less agrees and suggests that, like in permaculture, observation, acceptance of feedback, and experimentation are the way forward in community.
They close with twenty minutes of reader questions on co-housing, the Israeli Kibutz as a community model,
earthaven, and networking with other communities and entities for collective impact.
Co-Housing Association of the United States
Fellowship for Intentional Community
Ecovillage Network of the Americas
Credit: Landon Sunrich
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