What is the best way forward ?? In the recent past there have been several practical and forward-looking movements, each with their own challenges and virtues. I know most about the Communities movement and about Transition towns (others are welcome to fill gaps about other movements – Occupy, etc.)
I’m surprised more people don’t try community.
Advantages. It’s clearly better in a huge number of ways –
- Each person may only have to cook once or twice a week
- You can share tasks – some prefer cleaning or decorating to cooking
- You can share one really good washing machine, and the same with all other major pieces of household equipment
- You have your own room and own space, but there is always someone to talk to
- Various other things can be shared – childcare, shopping, admin, vehicles etc.
In general it can be cheaper, friendlier and more supportive, but, there can be difficulties.
Issues. I found this wonderful article by “Michele of the Teachers” from 1984, which makes the very good point about competence, which is quite touchingly honest. (the Teachers were a very intense group who lived in Bangor in North Wales – they are recently in the news for cult-like activity and profiteering from charities !). And, indeed, competence is a huge issue in community – what are the standards that are agreed – e.g. it is very annoying if someone doesn’t do the washing up properly and you have to re-do it !
So, who are the members ? How do you recruit / train new members to the required standard ? Who do you trust, and in what circumstances ? – you trust some people with money but not washing up, and vice-versa, but can you get everyone to the same standard ? what about foresight and decision making ?
However, a lot of group techniques and trainers are available, so none of the difficulties are insuperable.
Purpose and Intention. The reasons for existence of any group seem to make a big difference to how they operate, and this is especially true of community. By the way, what I mean here is Intentional community – that is, people who have chosen to live close together for a particular reason or purpose. Cities, towns, villages, streets and interest group are all sometimes called “communities”, but these are accidentally formed and random, though they can certainly be very happy and effective too.
I lived in the Findhorn Community, which has a focus of spiritual service, in particular offering workshops and conferences, and in co-creating with nature, and latterly, in becoming a demonstration eco-village.
I have visited other communities - some are focussed on self-sufficiency, others on mutual support, others on alternative technology, others on healing, etc. These are all workable possibilities.
However, near here there is an alternative community which is taking on all the main current issues at once, including gender and sexual issues, and I suspect this might be too difficult, but, I haven’t met them yet.
On the other hand, self indulgence of any type doesn’t seem to work so well - at Findhorn, illegal drugs weren’t allowed, and excessive drinking might have been tolerated, but not favoured. Free love, smoking dope and listening to heavy rock still doesn’t seem like a good way forward for community ! It inevitable leads to divisions between the “workers” and the “drones”.
The transition movement https://transitionnetwork.org/ began in Kinsale and Totnes, using development work done by Rob Hopkins, who wrote a manual of “how to do it and why” https://www.amazon.co.uk/Transition-Handbook-Dependency-Resilience-Guides/dp/1900322188
Transition is explicitly a development model for advanced societies that are dependent on hydrocarbon fuel.
Basis. The reason for the transition movement is that we are faced with multiple economic and environmental disasters, which seem more and more inevitable. The purpose of each group and of the movement is so that we will have a “soft landing” rather than a “crash landing” as any of the main unavoidable crises happen. Two are usually emphasised as the most dangerous and inevitable – that we will run out of oil, and that climate change will have disastrous effects. We need to prepare ourselves now for these !
Activities. Transition groups seem to do a very wide range of activities – all of these are considered helpful towards a soft landing.
- Local food production campaigns – farmers markets of regional food
- Local money and encouraging the local economy, LETS, local money
- Recycling of all types
- More food gardening – local orchards, allotments and garden shares
- Solar and wind energy, energy conservation
- Maker spaces and local employment intiatives
- Caring for the locality – civic societies, creating community facilities, etc.
- Caring for people – well-being movements
- Car pools and electric vehicles
- Encouraging local bakeries and breweries
You don’t often find all of these in the same place – each has their own variants, and there are regional meetings to encourage best practice – copying – why reinvent the wheel all the time.
Eventually so many people would be involved in these groups that it might begin to spill over into local politics. Eventually the Transition Council might become a parallel body to the Town Council.
Demographics. I originally thought that Transition would only work in County “Market Towns”, where there is local land that can be used for market gardens, and that there is some sort of prospect of sustainability. I lived in Epsom (one of the outermost suburbs of London), where transition failed, perhaps as it was clearly unsustainable, and though there was a strong group in Brixton (a radical part of inner London), there is little else in London and its suburbs.
However, now I’ve moved to Merseyside, I’m surprised and delighted at Transition Liverpool and at the range and scope of the other projects locally, so I now think that everything is possible !
Other Movements. Perhaps other people can write about these – Rainbow Alliance, Occupy - I’m sure there are others with clearly defined methods and goals.