Our search for a place to live and create a community has yielded a result, see www.myster.nl. We are very happy with this new place, as this will be the basis for our community, work and life for the coming years. In August (1 and probably 2) we will have a housewarming party for our friends and tribe members.
Attending Provo-inspirator, proto-hippie and happening-magus Robert Jasper Grootveld’s funeral in march and april 2009 and reading through his biography and works, looking at his video’s, writing the last Hipperzweter (www.net.info.nl/robert.pdf) I realized that the concept of community, comme un, come unity is something that is important to me. In fact for the last few decades I have been trying to create a community, with MySTeR, with Kleurnet and lately trying to find a physical location somewhere in Belgium or Germany, which has now succeeded
This has been quite a process, for various reasons, but the lesson could be that I (and we) have to reconsider what community means. The funeral of Grootveld made that manifest in some way, as it did bring together “Tout Alternative Amsterdam”, mostly aging hippies and would-be alternativo’s, but a community after all. Connected via a common past, being part of the Ruigoord community, regulars at Eik&Linde café, friends of Robert etc.
Community, something I for a while mistook to mean a material, a physical thing, being together in a place, being able to touch, feel, communicate in person. Of course the phone and now internet has created many other options to communicate, but I always felt that the physical was the real thing, the full bandwidth of seen, unseen, felt and otherwise transferred energies. Now I thought that a physical place was necessity to create a community, and for some 16 years I (with others of course) have had such a place, first at Lijnbaansgracht, then at Singel. When thatt ended, I started a search for something else, a new place, but also a better understanding of what community means. Together with some friends we have traveled to many places, spoken with many community members and ex-community members, evaluated the different approaches and came up with some kind of general structure for such a community, see www.net.info.nl/community.htm
We then set up a legal body to manifest this (Myster BV), searched for a physical place, a suitable location and found some very interesting places, but found out that the locals would not always be charmed by our ideas (partly due to my digital shadow, internet publications) and so our last bid, for a place in Recke Germany, was politically aborted.
So now it’s time to evaluate what community really means and seemingly the universe tells me (or us) that we are either not ready for a physical place or that we have to reconsider our notions about community. The latter is the purpose of this essay.
Community is what many are looking for and is in fact so closely related to the increased feeling of alienation and fear that has pervaded our world and led to this economical crisis, that thinking about community or rather the lack of community is fundamental, a necessity. Why have we given up thinking in community terms and charged some non-personal entity, the government, the police, the democracy or the media to substitute for what it could bring? Security, a structure for living, working, learning, growing, we are no longer in charge, but obey the system. Nominally we, the people, have some power, in reality however most people feel powerless, enslaved, pawns in the consumer game, Robert Jasper Grootveld did see this!!
When our leaders or would-be leaders, those we kind of put in charge and have so often disappointed us, talk about values and norms and duty, they now refer to empty words, to maps and symbols of what was once a logical set of standards and rules to live by. Not given by God, but the result of community needs, evolved over time and not defined by the letter of the law, but by Imm. Kant’s reasonability (Vernunft), common sense and logical choices. Natural law (or love for that matter), not legality should be the foundation of society and constitution. That foundation is base don what a community needs, where people feel responsible, but more than that connected. From connectedness stems community, from community comes cooperation and sharing, where being responsible for oneself and the world, for generations to come, is the imperative.
So let’s look at what community means, where we lost being a community, where legality, rules and regulations took over from reasonability, where the human scale gave way to the enlarged and extended but impersonal scale where care, taxes and even just living have become a liability, taxed from before birth till long after your body in your grave (or your copyrighted work) has been eaten by the worms.
Community, by any other name, is real, is important, is essential. From the host of our family we come into the world of communities, whether we call them school, church, work, lodges, unions or cities. In older traditions and more natural cultures that step into community is usually embedded in ceremony, in rites of passage. We lost that, even the military service has become a profession, Kill for Money (or oil).
Can we go back? Of course not, we are here and now, this alienation has happened, we are facing the consequences as we see the so-called “social contract” of Hobbes, Rousseau and maybe Drees crumble away. The welfare state, coming from sound social understanding and community feeling after some terrible wars, did bring some material advances, but failed to see the adverse effects of the great march of the ego, the rise of the individual and his status and achievements. The psychologists and sociologists that studied the separation of mask/personality and soul that it did bring, did not yet come to the conclusion, that this separation would inevitably lead to alienation, of our selves, our souls and would leave us alone, unconnected, resorting to consumerism and materialism and ultimately running this world aground.
So what to do? Save the banks, save the housing market, save jobs, will it really do anything about the fundamental issue, being fear and mistrust resulting from lack of connectedness?
A new level: buurtschap / neighborhood
Community thinking needs a new footing. Beyond the idealistic notions of commune, intentional communities we need to develop a new societal level, somewhere between family and local government as we now know it (Gemeente/city/village). Think of the people sharing an apartment building, some streets in a neighborhood, a level of between 20 and 300 people, the size of ancient tribes, the level where sociologist agree meaningful communication and discussion is still possible.
Can we create such a society level, give it status and legality, embed it in the other structures in government and make it a starting point for other initiatives and actions dealing with immediate and long term problems and opportunities? Stimulating the emergence of this level of community engagement not only with nice words, but with practical means, financial benefits, legal status, increased security and eco-sanity.
Bringing together the ecological, the economical and the emotional needs of our time, this new community level could be used to promote togetherness, energy savings, mutual lending, insurance, eco-management, conscious living, caretaking, logistics, and a host of other aspects. It definitely needs a legal and fiscal footing, such a community should be able to have a bank-account, receive grants and to be held accountable for its actions, both to its members and to the higher levels of government.
To give one small example of what such a community could do is to jointly commit to an energy savings plan, like to do with 20% less energy in 3 years. The government or the energy company would then add another 10% as an incentive, so people would actually save 30% on their energy bills.
In fact in
spoken with some
We have to fight the fear, the distrust and the emotional insecurity of the people, of all people, and this can not be done by more repression, more police, more rules and more top-down structures, we have to go back to our roots, our neighbors, our community, our tribe.
I would like to create a document/manifest (with website, video etc.) to illustrate what community means, what we have learned from community experiments through the ages, what suggestions, notions and plans we can come up with concerning community. I invite writers, thinkers and those with common sense to join me in doing so. We can have a conference or workshop to create such a document, the technical means for that are available. I suggest a small group of people spends a few days creating a draft, that then can de disseminated to a wider group and can serve as the basis for further action, be it political or in the media.
weesperstraat 180, 1012 DN
See also www.net.info.nl/community.htm www.net.info.nl/tribes.htm and www.net.info.nl/tribesofmagic.htm or www.myster.nl/boekproject.htm and for the new house www.myster.nl and www.myster.nl/fotos.htm