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Ecovillages and other villages

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  • Robert Monie
    Hi Everybody, When the subject of ecovillages comes up, I jump into my time machine and visit some earlier attempts at utopia. The romantic poet Samuel
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 4, 2003
      Hi Everybody,

      When the subject of ecovillages comes up, I jump into my time machine and visit some earlier attempts at utopia. The romantic poet Samuel Coleridge used to dream of rolling hills and a workless farm where thoughts and good feelings alone somehow put food on the table. Transcendental New Englander Bronson Alcott's had a similar dream (deliciously satirized in Hawthorne's novel "The Blithedale Romance.") Alcott actually got some literary types together for a while to shovel a little dirt in the morning and do coffeehouse-style socializing in the afternoon, but individual egos began to clash concerning whose job it was to do what, and eventually the property burned to the ground. (Not that there was any nevessary connection between the two).

      In the 1850's, just before the Civil War, America abounded with intentional communities, including the Amanda group, which eventually became a company that produced refrigerators, the Oneida group, which finally went into the silverware business, and the Shakers, a few of whom are still with us (about a half dozen women, I believe). The Shakers were famous for their clothespins, furniture, and line of potted herbs. Each of these groups and others like them were admirable in their way but somewhat single-minded. In one group, chastity was not merely allowed; it was mandated. This was fine for people happy with that arrangement, but not for others who might want to marry and/or have sex. In another group, not only was sex allowed, it was mandated on a rotational basis; that is, you had to have it with lots of partners whether you liked it or not. Not so good for people who wanted to be chaste.

      And so the story goes. What utopias generally lack is diversity. The human race is a difficult aggregation at best; one's person's meat is often another's poison. I personally like cities because there it is possible for the vegan, the carnivore, the Hummer driver and the Honda Insight driver to live side by side without too many aspersions being cast.



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    • Art Petrzelka
      ... I had to reply on the Aman[d]a group. Amana Society has been a neighbor of my familly since teh 1870 s, when my great-grandfather got to Iowa from Bohemia
      Message 2 of 2 , Nov 4, 2003
        On Tue, 2003-11-04 at 08:56, Robert Monie wrote:
        > In the 1850's, just before the Civil War, America abounded with
        > intentional communities, including the Amanda group, which eventually
        > became a company that produced refrigerators, the Oneida group, which

        >
        > And so the story goes. What utopias generally lack is diversity. The
        > human race is a difficult aggregation at best; one's person's meat is

        I had to reply on the Aman[d]a group. Amana Society has been a neighbor
        of my familly since teh 1870's, when my great-grandfather got to Iowa
        from Bohemia (Cechy) and started working for them as a farm laborer
        until he could save enough to buy his own land.

        Amana was the longest running commune in American history. It started in
        the late 1600's in Germany, was persecuted by the Lutherans, moved all
        oveer Europe, and finally set ship for the New World. They were in the
        Buffalo, NY area for a while before dispatching scouts to Iowa to buy
        land "far from the corrupting influence of modern society".

        They did fine as long as they had their prophet. But that ran out about
        1910 or so, when their last prophet, a woman named Johanna something,
        died. Although they tried to carry on, they eventually converted their
        communal holdings into a corporation in 1932, maintaining the church
        separately.

        The Society was very much a planned society. The members were told what
        job they would do, who they could and couldn't marry, who would be
        educated, where they would live, how many children they could have...

        The downfall, eventually, was that of most communal groups. The leaders
        had no guidance and the followers started losing initiative. Having
        worked for the Society myself for a while, I see a continued desire to
        run their operations themselves, followed by hiring someone "from
        outside" to do it for them.

        Their members are dwindling, only because they issued one share of stock
        per family when they incorporated, and I don't know that they have
        created new stock for more recent members. I do know that there are a
        considerable number of Amana people who are disenfranchised.

        Right now there is a big controversy over the Corporation's plan to
        build a large hotel and waterpark, followed by housing development of
        $300-500k houses right up to my property line, including a gated
        community. I'm not sure if they know about my plan to reintroduce pigs
        on the farm. It may not go over too well. I know that the gated
        community isn't going over too well with me.

        Remember, this was a community that banned most of the pleasures of the
        times. They were hard-working people, with few entertainments. Christmas
        was very simple.

        Amana members have complained about the strategic planning of the
        Corporation being only a reaction of someone waving money in front of
        their noses, but that's their problem.

        So, yes, Robert, there are often problems in Paradise. I can also refer
        to the large number of farm unity groups, especially in these current
        days, as we see the proliferation of "Save the Family Farm" groups in
        every state, county and watering hole.

        Well, it was nice while it lasted. We had a farm on the edge of nowhere,
        literally. You could see the Milky Way at night, except when the
        searchlight at the Cedar Rapids airport, 15 miles away, swung around to
        the southwest in its rotation. It was very peaceful out here, with a few
        square miles of timber just south of us. There were the occasional
        woodcutter living in a tar-paper shack out in the woods because they
        weren't especially sober enough to live with someone else in the
        Society. But they were decent farm hands at times.

        Now we have the rich people moving in, and the neighborhood has gone to
        hell, crime is up, and I'm going to have to put locks on the barns!

        So, if someone is planning a community, I would recommend a large police
        force right off the bat....
        --
        Art Petrzelka
        Amana, Iowa, USA
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