A. Allen Butcher · April, 2018 · The School of Intentioneering
East Wind Community (EW) became landed in Ozark County Missouri in 1974 as a sister community to Twin Oaks Community (TO) in Virginia founded in 1967. One of the Twin Oaks cofounders, Kat Kinkade, wanted to start a second community which would intend to grow faster than TO, as at that time Twin Oaks was turning away many prospective members.
Twin Oaks Community celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2017, and upon that occasion I wrote a paper titled Fifty Years of Utopian Intentioneering at Twin Oaks Community presenting my views on what has been learned from mostly Twin Oaks’ yet also from East Wind’s experiences. Most all of the Twin Oaks material is relevant to East Wind so I recommend that the reader find that paper as well. It is on my blog (URL above) and on my “Fellowship of Intentioneers” Facebook page. As I also talk about East Wind in that paper I will not repeat any (or much) of that material here. For this paper I will expand upon three topics: East Wind Community’s original goal of 750 people, the potential for a future “Tecumseh Commonwealth,” and what we have learned from EW’s experience of children in communal society.
East Wind Community’s Theoretical Goal: 750 People
As presented in the Fifty Years paper, East Wind’s original “theoretical goal” was to grow to 750 members. Forty-four years later the community’s population is about one-tenth of that earlier optimistic goal. When I joined East Wind in 1975 it was because I wanted to support the idea of creating a large alternative society. Instead, for various reasons, East Wind has ended up with an even slower rate-of-growth of its membership than Twin Oaks, which now has about 100 adults.
I remember during my membership at East Wind, which was eight of the community’s first ten years, the time when another member posted on the bulletin board a paper expressing his idea for how East Wind might grow. He was a Native American from Oklahoma, and he wrote about a vision of several different villages like East Wind scattered among East Wind’s Ozark hills. This, of course, was contrary to the vision of many of the people in East Wind’s power structure, or those who were most involved in East Wind’s government, who wanted a large centralized community rather than a decentralized network of small communities. At the time EW was still using B. F. Skinner’s idea of “Planner-Manager” government, presented in his utopian fiction, Walden Two, so the decentralized organizational concept was refused for being contrary to EW’s stated intent.
One of the East Wind Planners (i.e., member of its board-of-directors) wrote a response to the member’s bulletin-board paper explaining that the idea of a decentralized communal society was not acceptable, partly because Twin Oaks was not having a good outcome with its decentralized branch experiment, yet primarily because the “Walden Two” model that East Wind was trying to emulate inspired commitment to the idea of a large, centralized communal society, originally to be 1,000 people (because that is what was suggested by the author of Walden Two) then scaled down by East Wind to 750.
Although I agreed with the member who wrote about a decentralized network of sub-groups, I thought to give our leaders the chance to realize their ideal of a large, centralized communal society. After all, many kibbutzim in Israel had over 1,000 people so it was not unreasonable to think that we could do it as well, even without the cultural uniformity of Jewish culture. Yet while we were thinking that, even then the kibbutzim were starting to give up their communal childcare programs. Some of us were beginning to learn about this, especially Kat who visited kibbutzim in Israel in 1975, and probably at least some of the Jewish members at both Twin Oaks and East Wind.
On my almost annual visits to Twin Oaks I found newsletter and journal issues from the Israeli kibbutz movements in the TO Library, so as I was East Wind’s Library Manager and Network Manager I subscribed to some of those publications for the EW Library. We also had several visitors from the kibbutz, and one woman who grew up in kibbutz joined East Wind. Into the 1980s some of us read in those journals and talked with those kibbutznics about the kibbutz movements giving up their children’s houses as the first step in the privatization of the kibbutzim, and I think that many of us, when we learned what was happening in kibbutz, worried that if we gave up our communal childcare programs that we might find it hard to resist following the kibbutzim down that slippery slope of privatization. I thought at the time that it was our labor-credit systems that would save our egalitarian communities from privatizing, and I wrote about that to the editors of the kibbutz publications, yet no one ever responded. I agree with what Mala Twin Oaks once said to a reporter that, “Our labor credit system is the glue that holds our community together.”
Both TO and EW have now successfully given up communal childcare in favor of parental childcare without further privatization of our communal economies. While that is a success, it is clear that our original ideal of growing to hundreds of members is not being realized. In 2010 East Wind set a “membership ceiling” policy of 73 adults since that was the number of rooms available at the time, which replaced the earlier 750-member goal. (EWC Legislation Policy 11.52, p. 42)
Perhaps the most important reason why East Wind has not grown much in over forty years, not even to parity with Twin Oaks, is because of the issue of the optimum number of people for a more-or-less intimate group. As I wrote in the Fifty Years paper, most sociological, psychological, and anthropological studies of optimum human populations, both of primitive societies and of contemporary intentional communities, indicates that 75 to 150 people is the natural limit. It is this “membership ceiling” that may be the most important reason why the egalitarian communities of Twin Oaks and East Wind have not grown to large sizes, plateauing at around 75 adults at EW and 100 at TO. Another reason that our communities have not grown larger may have to do with children; yet hold that thought for the third section of this paper. Recently I have heard that some at EW are talking about raising their membership ceiling.
It is this experience of TO and EW, confirming the 100-or-so limit for social groups, that justifies the idea of a decentralized network of communities in a local area as opposed to that of one large centralized society.
Other large alternative-culture centers like Damanhur in Italy (founded 1975) organized as a federation, and Auroville in India (founded 1968) organized as neighborhoods, illustrate the necessity or efficacy of the decentralized network. This is what is developing around Twin Oaks now with four or five small communities around the larger group.
The decentralized network is essentially the organizational theory that Murray Bookchin developed through the Institute for Social Ecology, which he called “communalism,” confusingly using the French term for political subdivisions of a city, now called “democratic decentralism” by the Kurdish people who are developing the theory in the Rojava region of northeast Syria. Note that in English the term “communalism” is an economic term for sharing commonly-owned property. It is unfortunate that Bookchin’s use of the term “communalism” is confusing to English speakers, while the Kurds at least translated his idea into English. For my writing and advocacy, I use the term “commonwealth” to refer to a decentralized network of collective (i.e., sharing privately-owned property) and of communal (i.e., sharing commonly-owned property) and of economically-diverse (i.e., mixture of collective and communal) societies in one local area.
The Future Tecumseh Commonwealth
Before I joined East Wind, less than a year-and-a-half after it became landed in the Ozarks, I looked around at the communities movement for the largest, most dynamic countercultural community project to join. There were only a few that were communal and secular, and of those East Wind seemed to be the most likely to grow. I gave up on that idea about East Wind years before I had to leave the community, yet I never gave up looking for another community design that I thought might grow to a large size.
Being concerned about the lack of growth of our communal communities once they get to around a hundred members, I became excited about a new design for community begun by a group in southern Virginia called Abundant Dawn Community (AD, founded 1994). This design was being developed by Velma Kahn, whom I had worked with when we were both members of Twin Oaks Community, and when both of us were on the board-of-directors of the Rocky Mountain Cohousing Association in Colorado.
Velma developed for Abundant Dawn a legal structure involving a state nonprofit organization, which Diana Leafe Christian calls a “non-exempt non-profit” in her 2003 book Creating a Life Together (pp. 185-8), which holds the land and leases sites or lots to individuals or small sub-groups of the community. This decentralized intentional community design is referred to in Diana’s book as a community with subcommunities (p. 197), with the subgroups named at Abundant Dawn “pods” after the term used for groups of dolphins and other sea mammals. Diana uses the term “pod” only in reference to Abundant Dawn (pp. 160-1, 197), while Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage (DR, founded 1993) in northern Missouri uses the same general idea although not the same term for it, using instead “subcommunities.”
Then one day it came to me! I remembered our Native American member’s idea of decentralized villages and it suddenly occurred to me that East Wind could be just one of several communities comprising the local alternative culture. Such a local countercultural community network may or may not develop a formal community-networking structure involving all the separate communities (like in Bookchin’s “communalism” or the Kurds’ “democratic decentralism”), yet in either case the network can be called a “commonwealth.” This term, like many others, is defined in different ways by different people, yet the general dictionary definition is a voluntary association of sovereign entities linked by common objectives and interests.
This idea of founding a new community in Tecumseh, the nearest small “town” having little more than a gas station and a post office (the latter of which was about to be closed due to lack of utilization until East Wind moved in only a mile or so away) is now a long-term goal I am beginning to develop. Actually, my hope is that many new small or large groups may develop around Tecumseh, such that the local area will form a regional network which I am calling the “Tecumseh Commonwealth.”
Typically, where ever one intentional community is founded others will also develop, not necessarily of the same type. Especially where a large communal group exists, collective communities often form near-by, usually comprised in part by members of the communal group who have given up communalism, often in order to start families. Twin Oaks has several such smaller groups in its local Louisa County, some of them collective and some communal (the collective community named “Baker Branch” was not started by TOers yet is now mostly comprised of them), while East Wind has none in its Ozark County of any kind. This presents a great opportunity for myself and others to buy land in Tecumseh and start building different types of communities, which will likely attract former members of East Wind and others who would like to contribute to the building of a local community network in the Ozark Mountains.
There are many good reasons to form small communities in or near Tecumseh and East Wind. For one, there are no or very few building codes in Ozark County, Missouri. For another there is a lot of water in the area. At Tecumseh the North Fork of the White River and the Bryant Creek come together to form the hundred-mile-long reservoir called Norfolk Lake, all of which provide wonderful recreational opportunities. While there is little flat land and lots of rock in the region making agriculture difficult (beef is the primary agricultural commodity in the area), the region is mostly forested with plenty of small local saw mills, and has lots of rock available for building homes and other buildings. Once hemp becomes legal it can be grown on even the poor soil of the Ozarks for use in making the building material “hempcrete.”
The primary drawback of Tecumseh and Ozark County is that there are practically no jobs in the area. Communities concerned about maintaining good local public relations need to bring with them their own businesses for making money, to avoid the problem of transplants taking local jobs from the long-term population of the area. It may be that the lack of jobs in the area is the main reason why there has been to date no satellite communities of East Wind established in Ozark County.
Okay, another reason may very well be ticks and chiggers! The Ozarks is practically semi-tropical in the summer, humid, and populated with flora and fauna of all kinds because the Ozark Plateau is a mixture of plants and animals from the different ecosystems of desert to the southwest, grasslands to the west, deciduous forests of the north and east, and wetlands of the Mississippi Valley to the southeast.
The lack of jobs, along with the poor soil quality and hilly topography, is what keeps land prices low and zoning regulations minimal in the Ozarks. Along with the abundance of water and of building materials in the Ozarks, there is another reason why the Ozarks provide a good environment for a countercultural settlement. For the last couple centuries, the Ozark Mountains have attracted people wanting or needing to escape the dominant culture. People move to the Ozarks to get away from people telling them what to do, so the Ozarks culture is very much one where people want to be left alone, which engenders the cultural practice of leaving your neighbors alone. East Wind has been accepted by the locals largely because members prefer to stay at home enjoying our counterculture, resulting in locals only seeing East Winder’s when we go to town to spend money in their stores!
Ozark County local government has told East Wind that we are the largest “employer” in the county, although of course our members are not employees since all members are owners of the community including its businesses! And when it comes around to election time the candidates for county sheriff and other local public offices sometimes visit East Wind campaigning for votes. I was told by a local once that they know East Winder’s to be nice people, they just wish we would clean up a little better before walking into their stores!
The late 1970s and early 1980s saw an “in-migration” bringing many new people into the Ozark Mountain region from the cities, and the 2020s could easily see a similar in-migration happen, particularly from the West as the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountain region, and the Southwest all continue to get drier. With relatively inexpensive land prices, lots of water, trees, and rocks, Ozark land prices will likely increase in the future, so now is the time to purchase! Also, the highways and bridges into and through the Ozarks have continually been improved over the last forty years, so we can expect that the population and land prices will continually increase.
Not only may there be lots of people from the West looking for land with water in the future, yet there is reason to think that people from the East (and from Texas) may also be moving to the Ozarks. The problem in the East is not so much the lack of water as the lack of affordable land. If coastal cities get to be more difficult places to live, for any number of reasons, rural land in Missouri and elsewhere, especially regions with lax building codes, could get inundated with climate migrants. Better to buy land now than to wait until the rural Ozarks real estate market becomes inflated.
After leaving East Wind I lived four years at Twin Oaks Community in Virginia, and one of the main reasons I left TO is because all the communities of the area share Louisa County with the South Anna Nuclear Power Station, just 15 miles from TO. Some years ago (2008?) a rare East Coast earthquake occurred in Louisa County that rattled TO, the nuke, and the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., just 100 miles to the north. Fortunately, the nuclear power plant sustained no serious damage, yet it remains a liability and a threat to everyone in the region, as there are other risks to nukes than just earthquakes. The association of communities including EW, TO, and the other communal groups around TO and elsewhere, called the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, has many of its communal eggs in the Louisa basket. Tecumseh, Missouri is the main fallback or disaster-relocation contingency plan for Twin Oaks and the other egalitarian communities in Virginia, should any number of potential disasters occur, and while those communities may not actually help purchase land around East Wind, former members like myself certainly can.
Another reason to think about purchasing land around East Wind and Tecumseh is because there is already a regional community land trust in the area. Sweetwater community about 70 miles north of EW, and Hawk Hill about 30 miles north are both part of the Ozark Regional Land Trust (ORLT), and any new community in Tecumseh could request to put its land under ORLT as well. The Trust is actually both a community land trust (CLT) and a land conservation trust (LCT), and some time ago ORLT purchased some land on Bryant Creek upstream from Tecumseh to keep it wild, so purchasing land for a community near that small conservation trust on the Bryant would be a good location.
I think of adapting the Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage’s design of intentional community, involving a community land trust leasing plots of land to pods or neighborhoods, for the design of a new community in Tecumseh. It should be fairly easy to replicate DR in Ozark County as both groups would be in the same state. This may be helpful since DR has a rather complicated structure, explained by Ma’ikwe in her 2017 book, Together Resilient. Ma’ikwe, formerly a member of East Wind, then of Dancing Rabbit, is now living in Wyoming with a new name: “Mayana.” In her book she gives much good information about the community, explaining DR’s community land trust, its “overlapping cooperatives,” its “Exchange Local Money” (ELM) alternative currency, and its many ecological design features. Among the DR pods was “Skyhouse,” which I think lasted 17 years as a communal group, part of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. To emphasize that the proposed new Tecumseh community is intended to be a mixture of aspects of both Dancing Rabbit and of East Wind, I suggest the name “Dancing Wind.”
The population goal for the proposed Dancing Wind Ecovillage might simply be to equal EW’s adult population, although since I personally would like to see the Dancing Wind community project include a primary school for the youngest children, the population goal for the whole local network would then be whatever is needed to support the school. Developing a school for both community children and for other local children around Tecumseh would be a very good plan, since schools always provide a central focus for encouraging people to work together. An early-learning school will also help secure good public relations for countercultural Tecumseh, although people at East Wind may be of mixed opinion about it. Those who want more children at East Wind will probably like having a Tecumseh school, while those not wanting children at East Wind will probably not want it. Along with an early-learning school for children I would also like to develop my “School of Intentioneering” for adult education about intentional community. These educational programs could become projects of the tax-exempt Ozark Regional Land Trust.
It will be a year or two before I can purchase land near Tecumseh and resume my contribution to the creation of a large alternative culture project in the middle of the Ozark Plateau. I happen to have the good fortune to have purchased real estate in Denver, Colorado, which has recently greatly appreciated in value, thanks largely to legalized marijuana, so my plan is to use what equity I can from this city property to purchase rural Ozarks land around Tecumseh.
At the same time, I want to maintain my city property as a location for community networking here in Denver and the West, and as a stop-over for Federation people and other communitarians traveling through the West. I hope to establish an ongoing connection between the alternative community in Denver and the Ozark communities. A good possibility is that since jobs are scarce in Ozark County yet plentiful in Denver City and County, my Dry Gulch Ecovillage can house Dancing Winders who are willing to spend time in this city to make money to support themselves at the Dancing Wind Ecovillage, similar to how East Wind used to have “outside-work houses” in Springfield and St. Louis during the community’s first two years. In the mean time I will encourage people to purchase land near East Wind, around Tecumseh, Missouri, for the building of a local network of different types of intentional communities, which I am suggesting be called the “Tecumseh Commonwealth.”
Children in Communal Society
One of my goals in life has been to understand not only the dominant culture yet also the alternative culture, and to be able to write and teach what I learn about the differences and the interconnections between the two. In some ways the two are interdependent, which I explain through the concept of “parallel cultures.”
While I used to think that the goal of the alternative culture is more to change the dominant culture than to merely escape it, I have come to see that the more important perspective is that the two actually need each other, like day needs night, spring needs winter, and inhaling needs exhaling. Through both living in community and outside of it, I have come to see many different pieces of this rather involved puzzle, and have worked to connect the dots of information I have found here-and-there to create a coherent picture of it. I am sure that I have not seen the whole story yet in all its detail, yet I have come to some conclusions about the counterculture relevant to East Wind, to the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, to the Fellowship for Intentional Community, and to other communities-movement organizations, which I am teaching through my “School of Intentioneering.”
Like probably everyone else, I have heard of monastic societies that are celibate and have no children. The best known are Catholic monasteries, yet there are many more as well, including Hindu, Buddhist and others. EW, TO, and the other Federation communities are communal like monasteries yet unlike monasteries they are secular and do have children. I used to think that there was no correlation between the two: celibate monasteries and sexually-permissive communalism. Yet now I see that there is a fundamental relationship between the two that helps to explain East Wind’s evolution.
At first it was difficult to see this relationship between celibate monasticism and egalitarian communalism when only looking at Twin Oaks, because that community manages its children and its community agreements concerning them very well. At East Wind, however, the story is very different. Through EW’s experience or evolution we have evidence of a behavioral characteristic, or pattern of human culture, suggesting a basic aspect or rule of human society. I am still working on how best to explain this concept, yet for now I will rely upon B. F. Skinner’s behavioral science to help explain it.
The Harvard psychologist B. F. Skinner proposed the idea that human behavior is a rational science that we can understand and manipulate through technology like all other sciences. However, as far as I know neither he nor anyone else has ever written down what any of those laws of behavioral science might be. I now think that through our experimental communal societies we can begin to see what some of those laws actually are, understand them, explain them, and work with them. One example would be what Henry Hammer often said. Henry is a former member of TO who designed East Wind’s buildings: Sunnyside, Fanshen, Rock Bottom, and the Enterprise box trusses. Henry stated that the built environment may be designed to facilitate the kind of relationships we want to encourage among people. That is a good behaviorist concept. I think that other laws of behavioral science can be drawn from our practice of communal economics with regard to how labor-credits are different from money, yet I will skip that and other possible topics for now to focus upon what East Wind’s experience is teaching us with regard to children in both communal society and in the dominant culture of competition.
Building upon what I wrote in the Fifty Years paper about communal childcare, I think that both of our communities’ experiences of attempting to create communal childcare programs only to see them fail, shows clearly that secular communalism is no more able to maintain communal childcare than is religious communalism. While it is possible that some contemporary religious communal organizations are successfully managing communal childcare programs, like perhaps the Twelve Tribes communities and Padanaram Village, many others like the Hutterites and probably the Bruderhof have given up communal early childcare for family-based early childcare. Many of the Israeli kibbutzim made a similar transition, while some of the new urban kibbutzim in Israel may be experimenting again with communal childcare. (For details and references see the relevant chapters for these communal societies in my 2016 book The Intentioneer’s Bible.)
I think that we have sufficient evidence from our experience to proclaim that adults having children results in the need, not just the preference yet the imperative, of forming family units in order to put the needs of children first. The exception is cases where parents are not able to or simply have no interest in taking care of their children.
Communal childcare becomes problematic when decisions for children are made by a group rather than solely by their parents, especially when some of those parents refuse to respect those community-made decisions or agreements. At that point the unstoppable force of social pressure hits the immovable force of non-compliance-through-principled-dissent, resulting in energy being diverted from harmony to conflict. For this reason, among others, TO and EW gave up communal childcare for what is now considered “collective childcare” in which parents make decisions for their children. Small groups of parents and non-parent care-givers may look like “communal childcare,” yet they are not what we used to call “communal childcare.” To give the parent-directed childcare model a name separate from the community-directed childcare model, I am using in my School of Intentioneering the term “cofamily,” in which the prefix “co” is unspecified as it can mean: cooperative, complex, collective, compound, communal, composite, community, combined, or even complicated family! Such cofamilies can stand alone or be nested within a larger community, whether a land trust, an ecovillage, cohousing, class-harmony, communal society, or other intentional community design.
I now believe that through our experience of children in communal society we have evidence that having children, and the resulting need to put children first, is a large part of the reason why human society has developed the private property system. Groups of people, in any kind of community, simply do not usually make children their highest priority to the degree that their parents and other caregivers do.
We can see this anti-child social dynamic in several ways in communal society, which I call the “anti-child bias of communalism.” First, and probably most commonly, women and men meet in communalism then leave together to have children in the private-property system rather than in communal society, perhaps largely to be close to their families, and the financial support which they would not provide if the couple remained in communal society. Then there are unannounced pregnancies where women quietly leave, with or without their partners, to avoid having to ask the community to support their child. Another way we see communalism’s anti-child tendency is most starkly revealed at East Wind when the community refuses to support its women once they become pregnant. (How many? Only members can search Community Meeting records to find out.) If a pregnant woman wants to stay yet loses her vote in Community Meeting, she is then confronted with the ultimatum to either get an abortion or leave, even if she has to go on welfare alone in an unfamiliar city.
The first pregnant woman to be pushed out of East Wind for getting pregnant without permission from the community was in February, 1976. I was a provisional member at the time so I could not say anything against this decision of the EW Planners if I wanted to stay. This decision was led by Kat Kinkade to delay having children until a childcare facility could be built, as Twin Oaks had done around 1970 (coincidentally, TO and EW both refused children four years prior to the building of their respective childcare buildings). I knew all this at the time and did not agree with this Planner decision as I thought it was self-defeating and unnecessary, while it evidenced a lack of simple human compassion.
The excuse for kicking pregnant women out has been given that East Wind was “poor,” yet later that spring we received around $100,000 from the Pier I hammock business account (thank you Twin Oaks for sharing your labor-intensive craft business!), some of which could have been used to upgrade Re’im, the original farmhouse, for a childcare building as it was soon to be vacated. We were just finishing building Rock Bottom that spring for our new kitchen-dining building, and could have used the vacated Re’im for both food processing and childcare, yet instead used the bedrooms and dining room for storage, and the living room for a “Music Room” as Twin Oaks had done with its original farmhouse, “Llano.” Instead, most of that money was used to build the industrial building called “Enterprise.” Yet the precedent for refusing pregnancies was set, and East Wind has continued to make pregnancy refugees of many of its male and female members ever since, including eight years later in 1983 involving the current author and my partner. Over the decades the Music Room party crowd has gradually grown in strength of numbers to where it may now be the community’s primary anti-child voting-block.
Due to this tendency to refuse to support children while the community continues to increase its income, thanks now to its nutbutter business started by the Planner who earlier wrote the refusal of the Native American member’s proposal, I refer to East Wind as the Federation of Egalitarian Communities’ “party commune,” similar to the fictional Star Trek member of the United Federation of Planets’ “pleasure planet” called “Risa.”
Once East Wind had established a communal childcare program it restricted the number of children it would support, resulting in a small yet steady stream of East Wind pregnancy refugees. Then in a 2011 item of community legislation East Wind decided to submit each new announced pregnancy to a Community Meeting vote as to whether or not the community will financially support that particular woman’s pregnancy, birthing, and childcare. If the pregnant woman failed to win the vote she had to leave or get an abortion. (EWC Legislation Policy 85.0 – Approval for Pregnancy, p. 159)
Decades prior to this Approval for Pregnancy policy (around 1980) East Wind had decided to plan for two new pregnancies per year. As long as the Child Board accepted additional pregnancies above that limit there were no problems, yet if the Child Board did not accept a woman’s unplanned pregnancy then a vote was called in Community Meeting for making the final decision as to whether a particular pregnant woman could stay or would have to leave or get an abortion. Until recently I thought that the 2011 East Wind legislation mandating that all pregnant women had to go through a Community Meeting vote was in order for the community to avoid the criticism that it was telling women to not have children. Simply saying that the community would not financially support a pregnancy was somewhat less appalling and overtly oppressive than throwing pregnant women under the bus. Yet more recently I’ve read through more of my files on East Wind and now have a slightly different perspective.
While during East Wind’s first two decades the goal was to maintain a communal childcare program where the community made all decisions with regard to childcare and education, including diet, immunizations, discipline, toys, etc., and the parents only had input though the various child program committees, all that changed when an EW child died in a car accident due to adult negligence in the mid-1990s. That incident ended EW’s communal childcare program. There is more to that story, which I’ve written in The Intentioneer’s Bible, yet for this paper I’ll carry on to explain that in the decades since that tragedy the community evidently at first became more relaxed about accepting new pregnancies.
From my records it appears that after the tragedy and the end of communal childcare, East Wind first loosened up and accepted most announced pregnancies. Then in 2011 something changed. I noticed that it was a woman who had sponsored the successful policy proposal that all announced pregnancies would be submitted to a vote in Community Meeting, and I had met the woman who had made that proposal, working with her one afternoon during one of my visits to EW. Reading through my files and considering what I knew about this woman, that she is very responsible and much respected by the community, and seeing that a number of items in the community’s Legislation Policies document were sponsored by her, I came to the realization that the automatic vote was most likely imposed upon all announced pregnancies simply in the interest of fairness. This might be obvious, yet I have come to think that this particular woman proposed the automatic-pregnancy-vote because she had responsibly planned her two pregnancies with the Child Board, getting permission to have her children before she got pregnant, while evidently nearly every other woman who became pregnant failed to ask permission first. Clearly the earlier community policy was not working, so the most egalitarian thing to do was to submit every pregnancy to a vote for community acceptance or rejection. Interestingly, just a year after the woman sponsored the automatic-pregnancy-vote policy, she left East Wind with her two children just like most EW parents.
Keep in mind that Twin Oaks Community has no such policy, automatically accepting almost all pregnancies of its members without voting on each separately. Why are the two communities’ pregnancy policies so different? Unlike EW’s implicit child population limit, TO has set an explicit limit on the number of children it will support. This limit is high enough that with membership turnover, in which parents frequently decide to take their children out of the community once they reach school age (another aspect of communalism’s anti-child bias), new births simply take the place of those children leaving. In this way the community avoids the problem of refusing pregnancies. While EW’s population ratio of adults to children has generally been from around 8:1 (that is 8-to-1) to 10:1, at TO the limit is 5:1, or nearly twice as many adults-to-children than at EW. Thus, the whole atmosphere involving children at Twin Oaks is more accepting than at East Wind, since TO has set a more appropriate limit for children than what results from EW’s mandated pregnancy vote. (Note that 5:1 is similar to the adult-child ratio in the outside world.)
Considering the different childcare programs and policies at East Wind and at Twin Oaks, it is easier to see the inherent bias of communalism against children at EW than at TO. Yet clearly, even TO is subject to that bias as it does have a limit to the number of children it will support. As to how much the community will provide for their children’s college education when they choose to leave communal society, Brenda TO has explained to me that parents have to ask the community and, “they may get it and they may not.” To see this limit at TO one only would have to propose increasing the child population limit, or just do a survey at Annual Planning time asking members what limit they prefer for TO’s child population.
Recognizing communalism’s inherent bias against children, I have come to see that such dynamics are partly why, or perhaps in large part why, the dominant culture is characterized by and supports private property. People continually leave communal society to live in competition, because they have come to see that it is in the private property system that parents can best provide for their children, and this dynamic has probably been going on since before money was invented! This may even be an important reason WHY money was invented!
I have seen this justification for and attachment to the private property system in other countercultural dynamics as well. I first saw it at Rainbow Gatherings, which are ostensibly expressions of the gifting culture. People bring their private property to Gatherings to gift to others in the Rainbow Family of Living Light, yet at all large and many small Gatherings there is a Barter Circle or Barter Lane, where people will sit for hours on a spread blanket and offer any manner of things from their private possessions to passers-by for trade, from jewelry, to tools, to clothing, to consumables, with tobacco and especially chocolate taking on the attributes of money through their use as indirect barter commodities. And it is especially children who enjoy bartering, learning how to buy-low-sell-high, and to recognize and practice the law of supply-and-demand, merchandising, and monopoly in wilderness training experiences for market economics at Rainbow Gathering Barter Lanes. Burning Man festivals have the same tendency, showing that whenever people come together to enjoy the gifting culture they invariably want to create private-property barter markets as well. At Burning Man festivals barter is not tolerated and is always broken up, while at Rainbow Gatherings the atmosphere is much more anarchistic, with the existence of Barter Circles forever being a contentious topic.
Recognizing that the dominant culture of private property and of competition engenders its own counterculture of gifting, sharing, and cooperation, and that the counterculture engenders the dominant culture as seen at festivals and in communal society, I have come to see that the two, the dominant culture and the alternative or counterculture, are both dependent upon the other! Both creates the other and justifies its opposite or nemesis by its own nature! Essentially, this reality is diagrammed by the Taoist Taijitu or yin-yang symbol of Eastern religion, and we who create the counterculture need to be aware of this ironic truth of human existence. I believe that the inter-dependency of cooperation in the Fourth World (i.e., locally-based economy) and of competition in the First World (i.e., market-based economy) qualifies as one of those cultural dynamics or behaviorist principles that Skinner postulated as existing, and we now can see this illustrated in our own lives.
Perhaps this realization is not earth shattering. Maybe others have seen this before me. Yet none of us talk about this. Recognizing this truth gives ironic meaning to East Wind’s name, considering that Eastern religious traditions have been telling us this all along, in general terms. Now we know that cooperation and competition are like night and day, male and female, black and white. Both need the other, while neither can completely subsume the other.
East Wind’s development with regard to its childcare program shows us that as in monasticism, children are problematic in communal society. While I formerly thought that our story would be different from the history of monasticism, the similarity is made clear by especially East Wind’s, yet also by Twin Oaks’, policies restricting the number of children the communities will support.
Communalism has an inherent bias against children, the need to provide for which drives parents into private property and competition. There is somewhat of a corollary between this communal-versus-competition dichotomy and the dynamic of children growing up in the city wanting to live in the country, followed by the next generation growing up in the country wanting to move to the city, yet it is more fundamentally instructive of human culture to recognize that the experience of children and parents in society has been an important part of the driving force behind the private property system, through all of recorded human cultural history.
Philosophically, we can see now why both private property and common property exist, and how the two opposites are both essential to human society. This provides justification for the founding of forms of collective communities like land co-ops, and of economically-diverse intentional communities like land trusts, in close proximity to East Wind. People are continually attracted to East Wind to live communally, then invariably they are motivated to leave communalism to live in competition.
I once did a survey of former members of East Wind via email asking, “Why did you join and why did you leave East Wind?” The responses boiled down to the explanations that people generally join for idealistic reasons, like anti-capitalism, then leave for personal reasons, like the desire to have children.
I affirm that East Wind Community will benefit by having collective intentional communities around it that will accept its pregnancy refugees and other members who become disillusioned by the challenges of communalism. For the reasons presented in this paper, most especially with regard to children, I believe that East Wind can be a wonderful component of a larger alternative culture of people practicing gifting and sharing in the beautiful Ozark Mountains. East Wind is a good start on that ideal, yet communalism is only half of the story, with the collective part yet to be built. I invite others who would also like to live in a remote, rural, alternative culture of gifting and sharing to help work for the creation of the future Tecumseh Commonwealth.