Okay, we have now reached the next portion of this RIDICULOUSLY HUGE project. At this point, the project has been all theoretical, but with the theme of being actionable. Without an actionable trajectory, this is nothing more than a fun little philosophical exercise. While that would be nice (And much easier - the armchair is far less taxing), there would be little purpose. If you're gonna put a pie in the sky, then you better bring some scaffolding. So, Let's get on with it!
Making It Real.
There have been many attempts at intentional communities in the past. Quite a few. Without erroneously painting too broad of a brush, there are a couple commonalities that many of them tend to have:
1.) An appeal to nature and agrarianism. The idea in and of itself is well meaning; the underlying theme is to reduce the impact of human living, usually in response to the contemporary problems of climate and conspicuous consumption. It's a noble cause. The part which I sometimes take issue is that in order to achieve these ends, it often means eschewing technological advances in preference to a more traditional pre-modern lifestyle. As a very large advocate of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), this is something that doesn't sit well with me. The reason for this is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There is certainly a dark side to the advances of humanity, but to abandon it despite the positive advances it wrought is... hasty at best. We must temper technological advance with humanity and conscientiousness.
2.) Societal Distancing (Not to be confused with social distancing. Wash your hands). In order to find a better way of living, it seems that it is far too common (or possibly necessary) to steal away from the zeitgeist and start anew. While this may make for lessening restrictions on how the project operates, it runs counter to what I consider the very reason to make an intentional community. A person sees the the society they live in and finds it wanting for one particular reason or another. The drive to find a better way surely extends to more than just a person with an idea if the intention is pure. Divorcing oneself and others from that society entirely only serves to alienate. How could one look to change the zeitgeist if one refuses to "eat with the tax collectors" in a matter of speaking?
In the political discourse of the United States, a common refrain of America's place in the world is to be a "City Upon a Hill". It's a rather antiquated, if not a rather humorous conceit that we should be the beacon of hope for the world, an example to be followed. I would consider that our tendency towards exceptionalism is certainly more than tenuously connected to this idea. I however, have in many ways seen American society become the opposite; there are many things wrong here despite what we believe about ourselves. In danger of sounding too critical of my own country, I might propose that wherever one goes in the world, a similar sentiment might be seen among at least some of the denizens of any country.
Philosophy is a crucible, and with it we burn away the inconsistencies until we are left with the pure product of truth, for all time. The concept of a City Upon a Hill is something we can distill and observe objectively. It is a way to show to the world that there is a true third way. An actual better way to do things. In order to show a better way, the project must be visible. There must be transparency in the practices and interoperability with the world we are trying to improve. This is the spirit of Axiom 4:
Axiom 4: Progress is NOT made in a vacuum. Interoperability with the current world is necessary to enact actionable change.
In the end, this was the downfall of Jacques Fresco. He wanted nothing to do with the world as it was, choosing to nurture his own idealism in spite of it. This might seem a scathing criticism, but it is not without merit. He dedicated 70+ years of his life to his project. His project needed financing, and without that financing, he could not proceed. A strange irony is that one who wished for a money-less future overlooked the importance of it here and now. How does one cross a chasm without a bridge?
In short, a city on a hill cannot hide, nor can it be deaf to the outside world. An example must be set and a better way freely visible to all who wish to see it. In that mission, we also must be ready to be wrong, to find challenges and have the courage and knowledge to face those challenges. Otherwise, we fail.
These two commonalities that I outline and critique are what I hope will separate this project from others in the past. But, that's a little too much waxing philosophical for now. Where exactly would I begin this endeavor?
This is probably the hardest thing to figure out. What in the HELL kind of legal entity do I establish for this? My first instinct was a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit. This quickly turned out to be rather... problematic, mostly because in order to be tax exempt it would be difficult to properly define the kind of work that the organization would be doing. Not easy to say the least. The next thing was something I had to dig deep to find: a Benefit Corporation. Essentially this is a corporation that allows for profit, but tends to place priorities more in the route of social benefit. Hence a benefit corporation. Very creative name.
Another thought I has was to establish this community in some form comparable to a Township or something similar. This too has its pros and cons, and more thought will be necessary in order to get a good idea which path to go.
Side Note: Fun fact, I'm pursuing a degree in business administration. I'll soon have a LOT of answers for how to make this thing once I dig into the courses.
No matter how you slice it, I need to find the most ideal situation that will not limit the goals of the experiment. That's the key.
This is a big one. The unfortunate side effect of Axiom 4 is that I need capital to get this project off the ground. I have in a previous post touched on the subject of financing the Intentional Community, as well as the economics associated with it.
There are a shit ton of things I will need to begin, and I will need to have these things ordered and ready to implement in several phases. This initial planning will be indispensable to understanding precisely how much I need, and when I need it. Some of the things off the top of my head I can think of will be:
1.) Land (of course)
2.) Materials for constructing buildings
3.) Money for any filings or other Bureaucratic things that are necessary (property taxes and so on).
4.) Money for the necessary technological infrastructure
The lists goes on. I'm not gonna lie, establishment is going to take a substantial investment. That's a big bottleneck, but not one that I am convinced is insurmountable. Proper and efficient planning, sourcing and management can make it feasible. Remember the 7 P's: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. That's the ticket here.
Perhaps by using different methods of fundraising, the goals can be accomplished. For example, perhaps the community can benefit from crowd-sourcing, business incubation, grant funding, etc. This will need to be explored in more detail to arrive at a realistic solution.
My instinct tells me that sustainability lies in the way of providing the outside world with something of value. I know, that seems stupidly obvious; OF COURSE you need to have something to offer the current zeitgeist. In that previous post of mine, I explored options that ranged from revenue derived from intellectual property and related products and services, to education.
After speaking to @Sugarfix, a well learned and well traveled person, I come to realize that of all the things this community could offer, the highest of them would be education. That's an interesting prospect; what IF this community could in some form or fashion become an institute for research in cybernetics and other community related fields, as well as eventually, say grant degrees or other educational credentials? It would be an interesting thing indeed. Education is key, and I think that this will be important as time goes on.
The big thing is getting from here to there, which requires capital for startup. This is something that I really need to think more about.
Dealing With The People.
My grandfather on my mother's side was a WWII Army Air Corps Veteran. He fought in the European Theater and barely made it back. He later took up a job with the Federal Aviation Administration and worked there until his retirement. He was an inventor and held multiple patents from toys to tools. For real, check this shit out:
Yeah, He Invented the Goddamn Wrench.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL:
My Poppy was Into Some shit, man.
My earliest memories are of him sitting in his corner of the couch with a newspaper in hand reading about politics and the stock market. He would sometimes speculate on the way things might be in the future. There's this thing he taught me from a young age, and he had me repeat it to him every time I visited him.
Knowledge is Power.
Money is Power.
But the Love of Money is the root of all evil.
Of course as I got older, I learned that the litany he had me repeat many times was... well, platitudinous. However, when it came from him, it was sage wisdom from a lifetime of experiences. I love my grandfather. He died in 2008 when I was 19 years old. I remember getting the call. I remember where I was and how I felt. I would give anything to have him with me today. Especially today. The world became a slightly lonelier, slightly less wise place after he was gone.
While Axiom 4 tells a story of interoperability with the world at large, there is a darker side to it. Public perception of what I hope to someday accomplish is paramount. How many times have seemingly good intentions become little more than a cash grab? How often has it been the case that political or social pressure become the downfall of a truly progressive and good project? One needs to look no further than CyberSyn and Pinochet's coup to really understand.
Knowledge, in conjunction with the means to realize the vision of that knowledge is the truest power among all humankind. Knowledge was the first in my grandfather's litany for a reason; With knowledge comes wisdom. With that wisdom comes a the ability to comprehend the demarcation between the means, and the means as an end. With that in mind, it's important that people outside the project understand what my goals are with complete transparency. That means every cent accounted for. Every project detail easily available. All of it.
This is important because it is far too often that such projects could be irrationally conceived when viewed from a distance. The big "C" and "S" words are thrown about, hippies somehow become involved, and even worse, unfair comparisons to former Agricultural Projects in Guyana are made. Without the appropriate Public Relations is vital.
I want to show that this can be a new, true third way. That's really what the project is all about.
There's probably an encyclopedia of things that are necessary to really elaborate on the minutiae of roadblocks and implementation of the Intentional Community of the Future, and there will be several "Addendums" to these parts over time. This is definitely not the end of the thinking, but more of the beginning. And that really excites me.
Thank you for reading, I really do appreciate all of the feedback and criticism. That has been invaluable for me. The next and final installment in this series has to do with Growth, and is basically a "Futurism Projection" of what I hope the project could be if it proves successful. I think you will enjoy it.
Until next time, Keep Moving Forward!