THE CONFERENCE ON LOCAL AND ALTERNATIVE CURRENCIES
UNDERSTANDING MONEY AND BUILDING COMMUNITY
The E. F. Schumacher Society
Great Barrington, Massachusettswww.localcurrency.org www.smallisbeautiful.org
Hosted at Bard College, N.Y. June 25 to 28, 2004
"In todays global economy, we see a dramatic rise in inflation; exponentially increasing debt increased geopolitical tension; an escalation in global poverty; a widening disparity between rich and poor; and wide-scale environmental degradation. How do we deal with these problems? If we want to create a world that works for all of us, the power to create money must be decentralized and brought back to the individual and community level. This shift in power is critical to the survival of life and development of a positive future.
Local Currencies in the 21st Century is a conference convened in affirmation of an emerging era of vibrant citizen activism. The conference goal is to empower attendees by providing an understanding of the principles of monetary issue and the techniques by which communities can create their own regional currency systems. We imagine a network of robust local economies, benefiting small businesses and family farms, and involving consumers ever more directly with the people and land of their community.
In todays global economy national currencies have had the effect of centralizing ownership of wealth and widening the gap between rich and poorall the while undermining local communities, devastating indigenous peoples, and polluting the environment. Decentralized regional currencies are an important counterforce working to redistribute wealth more broadly while supporting unique regional identities, cultures, and communities. A local currency defines a regional trading area, favoring those small independent businesses willing to trade in the currency. Local businesses, unable to compete with the products of an increasingly predatory global economy, become strong players in resilient, regional marketplaces.
WHAT IS DECENTRALISM?
Transcending traditional categories of right and left, decentralism has been the logical meeting place for those in many fields of endeavor who believe that preserving human scale and encouraging a spirit of community are essential for the human spirit to thrive. In a world afflicted with giantism in its social, economic, and political institutions, decentralism is often mistakenly identified as radical, but it is in fact based on many traditional values. Decentralists are a diverse group, but they share a common belief in restoring community self-reliance and bringing economic and social activities back to a more human scale.
Over the centuries, human scale has had many eloquent advocates, ranging from Lao Tzu and Aristotle to Kropotkin and Jefferson, Gandhi and Chesterton. Fritz Schumacher introduced the concept of human scale to mainstream industrial society in the book Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered. In it he called for an economy of permanence, based on human values and sustainable uses of natural resources, and this marked a cultural shift in our thinking about economics.
Schumachers ideas rekindled a modern interest in the human scale, decentralist approach, one which has been intensified by todays social, economic, and environmental crises. The modern environmental movement has awakened an interest in the decentralized approach as issues of energy use, resource consumption, bioregional preservation gain urgency. Intensified globalization has brought forth the need for cultural and community preservation and appropriate technologies. Many visionaries and activists in a variety of fields have opted to develop small-scale, community-based solutions to these problems. Together with the writings of Leopold Kohr, farmer Wendell Berry, economist Ralph Borsodi, regional planner Jane Jacobs, bioregionalist Kirkpatrick Sale, and many others, they continue to build a modern decentralist legacy.
The Schumacher Society is dedicated to gathering this rich decentralist tradition,
continuing to bring the values of scale and sustainability into our modern
discourse, and demonstrating that small is not only beautiful it is
a viable alternative.
WHY LOCAL CURRENCIES?
By Chris Lindstrom
In today's global economy our national currencies tend to flow where money is concentrated, rather than where money is scarce. As money is centralized, so is the productive economy-the part of the economy that produces real wealth. Manufacturing locations are chosen based on access to cheap labor and technology rather than out of ecological and humanitarian considerations. This trend has undermined regional economies and created economic, social, and environmental imbalances throughout the world. It is a trend that cannot be reversed by electoral politics or street demonstrations. Change must happen at a local level aided by the implementation of local and complementary currencies.
To create a local currency is not a form of local isolationism; it is not cutting oneself off from the rest of the world; it is simply a movement of citizens taking responsibility for the well being of their own community. Local and community currencies do not seek to replace national currencies, but to supplement them, hence the increasingly popular term "complementary currencies." Ultimately the goals of complementary currencies are to renew and uplift community, to create a sustainable and environmentally beneficial economy, and to empower all people with a new sense of what's possible.
One of the objectives of "Local Currencies in the 21st Century" is to bring the concept of local and complementary currencies to a broader audience. We are very excited about the remarkable group of conference co-sponsors who have agreed to help with this task, featuring such prominent publications as The Nation, Acres USA, Resurgence, Orion, Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures, World Affairs: The Journal of International Issues, E Magazine, In Business, and Dollars & Sense. In addition, a host of prestigious and pioneering organizations are supporting the conference including Co-op America, BALLE, Investor¹s Circle, Chelsea Green Publishing, Institute for Local Self Reliance, NOFA Mass, Center for Community Futures, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, New Economics Foundation, and the Hawthorne Valley Association. And lastly, some of the ground breaking practitioners and pioneers of local and complementary currencies will be joining us from the ACCESS Foundation, Community Information Resource Center, Ithaca HOURS, Maine Time Dollar Network, and the Time Dollar Institute. With this team of visionary co-sponsors we are confident of taking the local currency movement into its new role in the twenty-first century. All that is needed is your participation and enthusiasm to bring this transformative tool to your community.
We are pleased to announce that Pete Seeger will be attending as our honorary guest along with Gandhian economist, Dwarko Sundrani. Pete will be performing Sunday evening at the Local Food Fest, a closing cookout with festivities to celebrate and honor local and family farmers. The closing event will be open to the public; so those with family and friends in the region, please welcome guests for a night of home-grown food and entertainment.
In addition to a stellar cast of keynote speakers, the conference program, still in preparation, will feature workshop presenters from all over the world. Joining us from Sweden is Per Almgren, designer of the interest-free savings and loans system developed in 1973 and used by the Swedish JAK bank (http://www.jak.se) that is owned and managed by its 23,000 members. Per will be giving presentations on his experience with interest-free banking and will talk about ways to secure a local currency with conventional money.
Another extraordinary person taking part in the program is Auta Main, executive director of the Maine Time Dollar Network (soon to be the New England Time Dollar Network), who has helped build the MTDN into a model for others throughout the rest of the country and the world. She now serves as the interim Community Revitalization Director for Time Dollars USA, where she and other Time Dollar pioneers from around the country are working with Edgar Cahn (founder of Time Dollars) on organizational development for the new national network.
Coming from Japan are Ikuma Saga and Takanori Yamamoto. Together, they will be representing the Earth Day Money Association, a community currency in Japan that promotes environmentally friendly behavior. They will report on the local and complementary currency movement in Japan and how it is helping many Japanese communities deal with the problems facing the nation today.
The story of money has been obscured from public view. Monetary reform has appeared sporadically throughout our nation¹s history as a heated topic of aspiring politicians who championed it as a central platform in their election bid, but whose passion for reform died down once in office. It is responsibility of peace loving citizens through out the world to bring this back into the public eye.
Please join us in June at Bard College for a conference dedicated to Understanding Money, Building Local Economies, and Renewing Community.
E. F. Schumacher Society
"True economics never militates against the highest ethical standard, just as all true ethics to be worth its name must at the same time be also good economics. An economics that inculcates Mammon worship, and enables the strong to amass wealth at the expense of the weak, is a false and dismal science. It spells death. True economics, on the other hand, stands for social justice, it promotes the good of all equally including the weakest and is indispensable for decent life." Mahatma Gandhi, Harijan, October 9, 1937
"A way of life that ever more rapidly depletes the power of earth to sustain it and piles up ever more insoluble problems for each succeeding generation can only be called 'violent.' In short, man¹s urgent task is to discover a nonviolent way in his economics as well as in his political life. Present day economics, while claiming to be ethically neutral, in fact propagates a philosophy of unlimited expansionism without any regard to the true and genuine needs of man which are limited." E. F. Schumacher, 1960
"The power of money creation is an indispensable prerequisite of 'sovereignty.' Whoever has the money creation power is sovereign, and the rest is for show." Richard Kotlarz, 2003,
"Citizen activists, listen up! We all know how loud money can talk in American culture, especially in these days of global capitalism. But money isn't only about power. It can also be about empowerment. Rather than try to turn down money's volume, an increasing number of people from many walks of life are working to create a new language for currency. The local currency movement, which has been steadily gaining in popularity over the past 30 years, includes activists, economists, farmers, environmentalists, regional planners, community development professionals, academics, and small businesspeople from around the world. At its forefront is the E.F. Schumacher Society, named for the author of the now classic text on sustainability, Small Is Beautiful. This month, the Great Barrington, Massachusetts-based E.F. Schumacher Society is hosting an international three-day conference at Bard College on "Local Currencies in the 21st Century."
"The Schumacher Society has, since its formation, been interested in local currencies as a tool for encouraging more vibrant regional economies," says the organization's director, Susan Witt. "What Schumacher proposed was that you produce locally for local consumption - that was his basic concept. What we're about is trying to figure out: What are the local tools that would encourage local production? What are the solutions that citizens can shape themselves rather than looking for government solutions? "
Although the local currency movement is generally little known, the concept is not exactly new. "Local currencies have actually been going on for centuries," says Chris Lindstrom, who is coordinating the conference. For instance, tribal commerce is traditionally based on a gift economy, he explains, "with everyone taking care of whatever needs to be taken care of," and during the Dark Ages, "everyone had their own currency in Europe; it's when economies evolve, becoming more complex, that currencies usually enter the picture."
In the US, local currency reemerged in the early part of the 20th century, gaining headway during the Great Depression, says Lindstrom. "A lot of communities throughout the world started to create their own currency systems as a way of addressing the deflation or inflation of their own currency."
The Wir Network (its name is the German word for we), founded in Switzerland in 1931, is the first established system and the longest lasting, with over 80,000 members today. "It's a hybrid of community-issued loans of the currency within the network and mutual credit - the direct debiting and crediting of accounts between members. When I buy something from you my account is debited, your account is credited," Lindstrom explains. "It's brought Switzerland through a lot of ups and downs in their economy, and allowed the Swiss economy to remain relatively stable."
Next on the local currency movement's chronology is the establishment in Canada of the first Local Economic Trading System (LETS) network. With local networks numbering over 1,400 throughout the world, LETS members trade goods and services among each other, and use a central operator to acknowledge each trade.
Perhaps the best-known continuing functioning local currency system is Ithaca Hours, established in 1989 in Ithaca, New York, by Paul Glover. "He issued it by sending out twenty hours [each] to people who agreed to participate in the system and it gradually evolved to include loans made out to community businesses," says Lindstrom.
If there is a hero in the world of alternative currency systems, it's Glover. "Paul Glover made a sacrifice," says Lindstrom. "He was willing to accept Ithaca Hours and be limited to meeting his living needs within the local economy - which meant that he was limited to the stuff he could buy at the farmer's market and to certain services, like the family practitioner who was willing to take Ithaca Hours."
Like Glover, in 1989, the Schumacher Society began experimenting with local currency, starting with the issuance of "Deli Dollars." The program was specifically geared toward helping an existing business remain in business after it lost its space. The way it worked, explains Lindstrom, was that "you paid eight dollars for a future face value of ten dollars. When the dollars matured in few months you could exchange them for food. So many people ate at the deli that they started to circulate the Deli Dollars within the local economy. The dollars wound up being passed around among people and used functionally as a currency."Deli Dollars was such a success it was dubbed by the international press as an example of "Yankee ingenuity - a way to let a business thrive during economic downturn," says Lindstrom. In fact, adds Witt, "the publicity was completely beyond the scope of the five thousand dollars the deli raised - there was probably at least six million dollars worth of international TV programs."
Next, the Schumacher Society issued Berkshire Farm Preserve Notes from 1989 to 1991. "There's really an ethic here in the Berkshires for finding those citizen-based solutions," says Witt. "Following Deli Dollars we worked with two farms, Taft Farm and Corn Crib, to issue the Notes. Again, that was a way for consumers to support the kind of small farms they want to see in this region."
Also under Witt's direction, the merchants in Great Barrington started BerkShares, a summertime promotions program. "The shares weren't a true local currency yet," explains Witt. "For every ten dollars you spent at one of the seventy participating businesses you were given one BerkShare; then, during a three-day period in September, you could use those BerkShares as cash." Once again, the experiment was a success. According to Witt, $75,000 went into circulation, and $28,000 was returned. "That's a huge return on a giveaway," she says. "There was a real spirit of festivity in the community."
Currently, Witt is working on establishing a year-round local currency, possibly to be backed by farm produce during the summer and cord wood in the winter months. "We, of course, have concepts of what a local program will look like, but its evolution will grow out of the local community," says Witt. "What this conference is doing is bringing up the principles for sound monetary issue. If a community is going to take on issuing its own currency, how does it do so in a responsible, sustainable, sound way?"
Any given community is capable of successfully starting its own currency system, says Lindstrom, so long as those involved are well-informed. "The most valuable resource for starting a local currency system is information and reason," he says. "A lot of them have not succeeded due to lack of information or understanding as to how to sustain something like this. The ones that have been successful have also managed to reach out to very important sectors of the local economy. That's the discussion we want people at the conference to have."
During the sing-along on Sunday afternoon, the kind that only he could orchestrate, the legendary folk singer Pete Seeger said, "I believe this is the very best conference I have ever attended." The effects, but also the timing of this conference on alternative economics (and others like it) cannot be overstated. Only the Spirit Herself could have convened it. Unlike the strident voices of revolution attending so many of the mass meetings and demonstrations throughout the country and the world since September 11, those who came to the campus of Bard College this weekend, from local areas, other states, and from many other places on earth, came to sit and listen, to add their voices, their (tremendous) insights and concerns, and to ask hard questions. "Think globally, act locally." In keeping with this profound social concept this has been called a conference on "local" economies. And well it was, but, knowingly or not, the nearly three hundred souls in attendance actually came to continue the work (to sort out the nuts and bolts if you will) of the next global order--the next economic paradigm. They assembled here to lay the spiritual and intellectual, as well as the technical groundwork for the revolutionary, nonviolent change that is in every sense of things already happening, but which will perfect itself in the attending crises of our times, as this age continues to come to its conclusion and the new is born.
Bernard Lietaer, the author of The Future of Money, and one of the first keynote speakers, said that we are presently in the Wright Brothers stage of production, that we are trying to build a craft (the framework of a viable alternative economy that can actually fly--from here to there so to say--and weather the winds and currents of economic reality). Many of our attempts, at both community and a viable alternative economies, have, and will crash, he said, advising everyone not to be discouraged. Get back to the drawing board, he said, retool and gear up to the next level of understanding, and involvement. Mary Beth Raddon (A Wealth of Experience: Community Currencies Past & Present), was refreshingly honest about the subject when she spoke to the assembly of the several reasons for the many failed attempts--from the Utopians of the 19th century right up to the present--at creating alternative local economies. Many had to do with personality, most with the overwhelming presence of the larger market economy (the great Beast). But perhaps a primary reason was described (unfortunately, all too briefly, because the point was by and large missed) by an individual who rose to speak, suggesting that it lay partly in our inability at present to distinguish between (what the speaker called) local recreational currencies and life-issue currencies--between attempts at creating (what want to be) alternatives to the greater capitalism (but which are not), and the real work of economic transformation itself. The implication being that the real must be born of real needs (real cause and effect), not the pastime recreations (however well meaning) of the already generally well-to-do liberal middle class, or in further capital investments in the present economic order, no matter how altruistic. Such real changes, of course, can only come when History (the Cosmos...God) moves the wheels (they are turning)...
There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Victor Hugo
...thus when the time is right (that day is fast approaching), but must, as the speaker suggested, be rooted, not in the attempt at making our already-comfortable lives more comfortable but in the most basic exigencies of life itself. Let us be perfectly clear, the poor cannot at present afford local organically grown produce, or to shop at the local health food store. Paul Glover, the founder of Ithaca HOURS, who speaks forthrightly on the subject of the corporate takeover of the organic food industry, is also aware of the disparity, and seeks to encourage and provide ways in which the poor and disenfranchised can work their way into Ithaca's alternative economy. Ithaca Hours, however, are still tied directly to the greater capitalist economy. Each Ithaca HOUR is valued at $10 American money. There are many among us, however, who are still not paid ten dollars an hour for their labor, and even when they are, there are many others who can command much more. Until all the participants in the economy are earning the same per hour (the same Hour) as each other, class distinctions remain and the incentives for joining the local system remain marginal.
Both, Edgar Cahn, the author of No More Throw-Away People; The Indian in White America and Hunger USA, president of Time Dollar Institute, and his wife Christine Grey-Cahn, are deeply committed to these issues, to the plight of youth, community health, education, public housing, the elderly and the care of children with emotional disorders. Their Time Dollar initiatives, while not based on an actual currency, are both a concept and a strategy for furthering changes in the present system and enhancing everyone's sense of the imperitives of social justice. Nevertheless, the introduction to a workshop the Cahns are giving at an upcoming International Time Banking Congress, being held in August, 2004, states:
Co-Production and Systems Change__Social welfare systems aim to support and strengthen those who are struggling to deal with economic deprivation, poor levels of education, violence and crime in their neighborhoods, inadequate housing, medical care and transportation needs, emotional disorders, mental and physical disabilities, and so on.
Too often, those systems systematically perpetuate the problem and/or create harmful dependencies, or are simply inadequate to meet the vast level of need. In recent years there has been a huge emphasis on "asset-based" and "strength-based" approaches that will do better--but too often the dependency-creating relationships between "professionals" and "clients" change very little. Through illustrative case studies and joint problem solving, this workshop asks: HOW CAN TIME DOLLARS AND CO-PRODUCTION LEAD TO REAL SYSTEMS CHANGE?
The Cahns, like so many of the rest of us, are still honestly asking the questions and seeking the answers.
Bernard Lietaer said that though the present world economy is the problem, the chances of reforming the world's Central Banks are unlikely. Taking a pragmatic view, as did several others in the conference, he said that we must try to devise our way with them in mind, and work around them where we can, and with them where we must. (Perhaps this pact with the devil is our only option at present, but let us be certain, it is the World Banks and the present Economic World Order that are fated to come down, leaving the sky clear for all the little ideas--the local economies--that shall immediately come off the ground in the wake of such a great crash. These things will happen because it is written...
In the meantime, until the poor, and the presently-disenfranchised, are drawn to such ideas, as both a refuge from the existing order and as full participants, the ideas will remain in the experimental stage, serving the few but not the many).
Those of us who are relatively more aware of and engaged with monetary reform carry a special burden. If the truth fails, it is not because the bad guys have not done their part, but rather we "good guys" have chosen not to drink the cup sufficiently...The complete truth is that every person ...partakes of both roles. We are all part of the problem, and part of the cure...Concerning the plague of usury (capitalism), those typified by the exceptional gathering of souls at this conference will be called upon to do the heavy lifting... We are here gathered at the conference to explore options for the invention and expansion of micro-currencies, motivated in large part by the pressing need to patch the cracks of macro-economic dysfunction... Nevertheless, it behooves us to bear constantly in mind that the usurious rapacity of the macro-regime will ultimately overwhelm our best efforts as it completes its terrible course. The local currency movement, if it does not move forward in sufficient mindfulness of the need for concomitant macro reform, may turn out to be little more than (a passing distraction). On the other hand, with its special insight, quality of commitment and experience with usury-free commerce, it could plant the seed for the transformation of the monetary system as a whole. Clarity and focus is everything. Richard Kotlarz, Usury: The Strange Superstition.
Michael Shuman (Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age), reminded everyone that they must not to fall into the trap of dogmatism, each imagining that there is only one approach to these matters--their own. Stay the course, he said, continue to pull together, not looking for reasons to differ with each other, but always for places to agree. This, in keeping with the universal spiritual precept of being in submission, one to another, is the key, for the truth, and the right means, will always emerge in agreement--when every aspect (the spiritual as well as the mundane), and every voice (from the least to the greatest) is being considered. Thomas H. Greco (Building Healthy Community Economies), said, nevertheless, the ideas themselves must be must be well thought out, and based, not only on sound economic principles but on principles that we fully understand. They cannot be formed out of the abstractions, the deceptions and deliberate obfuscations of the present economic order. Consider William Greider's Secrets of the Temple, How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country. And then consider Ed Griffith's critique of that:
The Money Masters
The Money Masters video is an excellent production with sound history and professionally created images. It tells the story of our debauched money system in a highly entertaining and convincing manner. There is just one problem with it. It offers a false solution - which is to say that it offers no solution at all. The alleged solution is that we abandon our present fiat money system and adopt another one very much like it. Yes, it advocates FIAT money! The proposal is that we should take the power to create money--out-of-nothing--away from those big, bad bankers and turn it over to those nice, trustworthy politicians, instead. It is naïve to think that politicians are any more trustworthy than bankers. The problem with money created out of nothing is not who does it but that it is done at all.
In this regard, Money Masters is very much like William Greider's book, Secrets of the Temple, which was offered to the unsuspecting public as a scathing expose of the Federal Reserve System. His history was excellent, but his conclusion was treacherous. After having proven that the Fed was conceived as a weapon of the banking elite against the common man and having shown throughout his book that this is exactly the function it has always served, his conclusion was, not to abolish the Fed or even to make serious changes to it. His call to action was simply to stop worrying about it. The Fed has made mistakes, he said, but we have learned many lessons along the way. All we need now are wiser men to run it! That is exactly the kind of solution that made his book acceptable to the giant publishing house, Simon and Schuster. It is no solution at all. The elite do not care what you know about a problem if you don't do anything about it. They are quite good at putting forth their own opposition - writers like Greider - who will sound the alarm and rally the troops but lead them exactly nowhere.
More recently, Simon and Schuster published another book in this same category, Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor, by Robert Stinnett. It is a block buster of facts and previously hidden documents proving beyond any doubt that FDR, Secretary of War Henry Stimson, General George Marshall, and many others high in the Roosevelt Administration secretly plotted to cause Japan to successfully Attack Pearl Harbor as an excuse to get the United Stated into World War II. So, what was Stinnett's conclusion? Was it to condemn these men for treachery against their fellow Americans? Not at all. It was that they were justified in doing so as a means of putting a stop to Nazism in Europe. In other words, it was an act of great statesmanship! Once again, Simon and Schuster provided the American people with a false opinion leader. What's the point of getting all frothed up over a President deliberately causing thousands of Americans to be killed if we are then to decide that he was a hero for doing so?
That is exactly what Bill Still has done in Money Masters. The solution to fiat money is NOT more fiat money. It is REAL money based on tangible assets, and none has yet been discovered that serves as well as gold and silver. (Why not gold and silver? Because one must go down into the Darkness to get them. One must continue to rape and plunder the Divine Mother Herself to acquire them. Please understand Zephaniah 1:14-18). The assertion in the video that wooden sticks were successfully used in England as money is grossly misleading. Sticks were used to a very limited degree in some areas as a substitute for tax money, but at no time in history were sticks ever used as a medium of exchange for meaningful economic transactions. To propose that we now can live with fiat money based on this myth is a despicable act of deception. Beware The Money Masters. It is a trap.
All of which brings us back to the first two plenary speakers at the conference, Dwarko Sundrani and Margirit Kennedy: Dwarko Sundrani, one of the last living disciple of Ghandi, spoke of total commitment, not only to the idea of social justice in the world, but to the people--always to the people--who are the very real victims of the present world order:
MY LIFE IS MY MESSAGE: AN EVENING WITH DWARKO SUNDRANI
October 23, 2002, Santa Clara
A reporter once asked Gandhi, "Bapu, give me your message for the people." He instantly replied from a moving train, "My life is my message." Repeatedly, Gandhi asked his supporters to burn all his books and words on his own funeral pyre: "Those who believe in the simple truths I have laid out can propagate them only by living them." Dwarko Sundrani paid attention. Today, at 80 years of age, he is the last active disciple of Gandhi and living the message of his teacher.
In Bodhgaya (India) -- the place of Buddha's enlightenment -- Dwarko started with running a school for the poorest of the poor. His aim wasn't just mathematics, chemistry and history, but rather the "total development of man". Today, he has founded a network of 360 schools and engages in all kinds of social action: from eye camps to vocational services for the underprivileged.
Dwarko-ji, as he's often referred to in India, also runs an ashram in Bihar. At his ashram, S.N. Goenka gave one of his first 10-day meditation courses, which has reached hundreds of thousands of people since; it was there that Satish Kumar, a student of Dwarko, commenced his revolutionary peace-walk from Gandhi's grave to Kennedy's grave. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited him. Vinoba Bhave, regarded as Gandhi's spiritual successor, entrusted him with running his own ashram and J. Krishnamurti shared an experience of immense joy in their first personal encounter. The stories go on and on. It is no wonder that the 14th Dalai Lama, his close friend, says to him: "Dwarko-ji, I teach compassion but you live it!"
"The purpose of life is to give service," Dwarko says. From birth to death, we are continuously receiving service, whether it is from our mothers or the plants in our backyard, and it is our duty as human beings to give back to the inter-connected circle of life. When you hear this from Dwarko, somehow, it almost seems common sense.
'I Don't Know'
"I don't know." For a lot of people, those three words can be terrifying. But for Dwarko, they may as well be his favorite words. How did you come to pick Buddha's birthplace as your place of service? I don't know. How do you sustain all these huge projects if you never ask anyone for a donation? I don't know. Dwarko says that it's not his job to know; he is just an instrument of service, in the hands of nature.
When you have the heart to let go to such a great extent, you bloom wherever you are planted. In his youth, Dwarko didn't want to marry but when his Dad insisted, he put forth one condition -- "I will marry if you don't take any dowry." After a heated exchange of words, he left his home and became a teacher. (He never did marry but after 35 years, his Dad did eventually reconnect with him.).
Dwarko had six rupees (worth a dime today) when he first ended up in Bihar; he needed that six rupees to take the train and reach the ashram of Vinoba Bhave. As it turned out, a poor person on the street asked him for the money. Spontaneously, he gave it away! Instead of taking the train, he walked for a couple of days straight and managed to eventually reach his destination ... errrr destiny.
My life is my message, as Gandhi would say.
To give away literally everything you have is no easy feat. In fact, one wonders if that's even possible. But Dwarko Sundrani is proof positive that it's possible. His work today spans millions of rupees and more importantly, has positively affected thousands of people all over the world. He still doesn't know what he is doing, where is going to be tomorrow, and why he's doing it. And that, actually, is the beauty of it all.
"When I was young, I once burned a post office for protest," he said with a wry smile. If you weren't hearing this from the last active disciple of Gandhi, you'd wonder. But for Dwarko, it symbolizes yet another victory over the violent tendencies of the mind. An eye for an eye, over time, will leave the whole world blind. Violence just seemed to destroy what he was trying to build and so Dwarko abandoned his naive ways.
He developed a new weapon to connect with ideas, things and people -- soul force. Words used to be mightier than weapons but in this age of information overload, words have lost their meaning. Action programs used to work but they are also losing their power due to confused means. "Time has come for using soul force, collective soul force," Dwarko proclaims.
Real education for him is an understanding of this soul force. Math, science, and history are necessary but those subjects are simply the glass that holds the water. If you're really interested in quenching your thirst, you have to drink the water. Dwarko explains: "Gandhi's mission wasn't just India's independence. That was a very small part. His real purpose was to create a new man."
For Dwarko, development of that new man of soul force, a man of non-violence, is "true education".
"Non-violence isn't a campaign. It's a way of life," Dwarko emphatically says. And he learned this straight from the man of the 20th century, the father of India, his teacher -- Mahatma Gandhi. For Gandhi, as you know, even haste was a form of violence. An action of violence stems from a thought of violence, which arises from dissatisfaction with the present. And that present moment is every moment.
Seven Blunders of The World
Dwarko was later asked, "Gandhi faced the cultured British rule but do you think he could've handled Hitler?" "It would've been easier for Gandhi to handle him, actually," he replied. "Just as you can't see the lights in the evening but can see them brightly in total darkness, the message of nonviolence would've easily worked in the total darkness of Hitler's Germany." (Please open the pages of the Book of Jeremiah the Prophet, in Central Europe, on the morning of the 20th century).
Well, then, how can we bring non-violence to the middle-east? "Why aren't you asking how can we bring non-violence to America?" Dwarko asserted promptly. "Everyone needs non-violence. And it starts with you. Are you non-violent?"
Then, he elaborated on Gandhi's seven blunders of the world: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, politics without principle.
It has been thousands of years since Jesus Christ said, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." In fact, that golden rule has been proclaimed by every major religion. Gandhi also told us, "It is no nonviolence if we merely love those who love us. It is nonviolence only when we love those who hate us."
As easy and utopian as it sounds, it's not. Someone asked Dwarko, "What were Gandhi's weaknesses?" And he quickly responded: "Gandhi had many many weaknesses. But he had one strength -- when he found truth, he wouldn't let it go.""A saint is a sinner who never gave up," Yogananda once said. All of a sudden it hits home that you're sitting in front of a saint.
It was thoroughly fitting that Margrit Kennedy (Interest and Inflation Free Money: Creating an Exchange Medium that Works for Everybody and Protects the Earth) followed Dwarko Sundrani to the podium, because--perhaps without knowing it herself--she opened the Door to an understanding of this entire subject when she allowed God (the Divine Mother) into the human equation. She spoke of Jung's missing archetype--the Goddess, the Divine Feminine Principle of Life. We find Her (the Shekinah as She is known in Hebrew terminology), in Genesis descending to the words: In the beginning God created (transformed Themselves into) the heaven (Uranus) and the earth (Gaia)...(Genesis 1:1). And then, as the Vedic age dawns upon the earth (after the judgment wars of Noah's time), we find Her in India in the figure of Sarasvati, the Goddess of Wisdom and consort of Brahma (Proverbs, chapter 8...KJV). And then She appears in the Torah as Sara(h), the wife (and sister) of Abraham (Abrahm), and finally in the Gospels as the Woman who hid leaven in Three measures of meal until the whole was leavened. (Matthew 13:33,34; Genesis 18:1-6). And at last we find Her in the 12th chapter of Revelation, as it is written:
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered...(Revelation 12:1,2...KJV).
Just as She (Divine Wisdom--Sophia) revealed Herself to the spiritual adepts of those times, and gave birth to the age in which we presently reside, so She is descending once again into our collective field of consciousness and is giving birth to another (the Aquarian) age.
In a workshop shared with Tom Kennedy, Verne Warwick and Richard Kotlarz, who were in turn eloquent in their understanding of the effects of the plague of usury upon the life of the planet, we attempted to put the subject of usury (and therefore the theory of capitalism) in its proper historical perspective. (And let us agree, before we get tangled in what might seem to some like a simplistic and wholesale condemnation of everything that is also obviously good about Western civilization, that not only are there many good people--millions in fact, like Jonah--who are laboring righteously, for true justice here in the West, doing the best they can inside of a system that is very dark, but that it is the Darkness itself that has facilitated this birth of Light. Thus it is all the work of Divine Wisdom). We reasoned, that since the beginning of this age and the birth of Christianity two primary theories of history have affected and guided the philosophy and westward expansion of civilization. The first we attributed to Saint Augustine. (We recalled that Augustine also laid the theological groundwork for the future Inquisitions, gave the church its disdain for womankind, and authored, along with others, the pernicious idea of the Just War).
Augustine's theory of history implied that everything written in the past was already fulfilled, with the coming of Christ and the rise of the Christianity in the earth. The Caesars (and not the present rulers of the Western world) were the antichrists, which the Church has either already deposed, or will, in time, render subject to the rule of Christ). The key to understanding his theory (and therefore the theory of the subsequently all-powerful Roman Catholic order, and the Reformation order that emerged out of it) are the words, in time. The theory holds that history, and therefore reality, has no definite structure, no pattern to guide our lives by other than the ex-cathedra teachings of Holy Mother Church. It is an open book, linear in its dimension, and will come to its conclusions at some undetermined, far-off juncture in time, way out there in the future, after Christendom has finally subdued all of the pagan and otherwise wayward impulses of humankind. Until then, of course, everyone has a crack at it, everyone has the right, and even the duty, to attempt to establish their own worldview. The chosen, and by this implication the strongest, will prevail.
This, of course, was the Deist position on history, those who founded the American Capitalist Order. It holds that God set the world in motion, but it is up to us--to man--to establish the world in righteousness, using the power of human reason that has been bequeathed to us at the creation. (This despite every edict in the sacred texts against the abilities of the natural mind). We recalled when Newt Gingrich introduced Alvin Toffler and his work, The Third Wave, on the floor of the U.S. Congress. This was a subtle attempt at the time to co-opt, or assimilate the power of the Third Wave (the Age of Information) that is now sweeping over the globe. The First Wave was the age of hunter-gatherers, basic agriculture and village life. It lasted for thousands of years, yielding ever so slowly, and almost imperceptibly to the Dialectic effect. Then the Second Wave, the Industrial Age, suddenly inundated the world, sweeping over First Wave societies like a torrential flood. The conflict between the two is still being waged in certain parts of the world, including America. Second Wave society--short-lived as it was--is now locked in a life-and-death struggle to maintain its control, not only over the vast resources of the earth, over the world's industrial economy, but also over the ideas that will ultimately determine the direction the world's people will take once they have the information to go on. "It is too late," Michael Burisch, a friend from Vienna, said, "They have no idea what they did, what power they let loose, when they put this little contraption (the computer and the internet) in our hands."
Likewise is Malachi Martin's The Keys of This Blood, The Struggle for World Dominion Between Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Capitalist West. In a chapter entitled The Grand Design, Martin states that at the time of John Paul's elevation the world was divided into three Internationales: the Red Internationale (which has ostensibly collapsed with the Soviet Union itself), the Black Internationale (the Roman church, which for all metaphorical purposes is as irrelevant to the future course of history as the failing Pope himself), and the Golden Internationale (the internationalists and globalists of the Capitalist West, who seem at present to have won the struggle--a victory, however, that they are still desperately trying to consolidate and turn into reality)...
Which brings us to the second theory of History, the one that is actually unfolding in the earth at this very time. The Cyclical, or Apocalyptic theory of History holds that reality moves in great reoccurring cycles of events. When the Great Wheel of Time (the Great Design) reaches a turning point, as it has at at other minor turning points in the past, the next stage of human consciousness is reached, the old is destroyed, and the new is born. This was the world view of the Essenes and that fellowship of spiritual adepts who laid the (secret if you will) foundation for the age of Christianity as it has come to pass.
"It would be a mistake to suppose that the writers of the scrolls and the men of Qumran were inspired only by recollections of things past or that they chose their way of life simply because they were unsettled by political turbulence or disgusted by the venality of the Jerusalemitan priests. They were swept also by other winds. One of these was the widespread and well-attested contemporary belief that great cycle of the ages was about to complete its revolution. This belief was based on a conception, which can in fact be traced to remote Indian antiquity, that existence consists not in linear progressive development --that is, in history (although it does also)--but in a constant cyclical repetition of primordial and archetypal events. When major upheavals occurred it was promptly supposed that the cycle was nearing its end, that the Great Year was at hand, and that cosmos was about to revert to chaos. The primal elements, restrained and regulated at the beginning of the world, would again be unleashed; all things would dissolve in an overwhelming deluge (wars) or be burned in that everlasting fire that rages in the depths of the earth. Then the cycle would begin again; a new world would be brought to birth." The Dead Sea Scriptures, by Theodor H. Gaster, p.8.
The Triumph of God, Descriptions of the Final Age
'They pay no heed to the real hidden meanings of things, but divert themselves instead with all kinds (of errors and incorrect interpretations)...They do not know the hidden meaning of what is actually taking place, nor have they ever understood the lessons of the past. Consequently they have done nothing to save themselves from the deeper implications of present events.
This, however, will symbolize things for you. What is going to happen is, as it were, that all iniquity is going to be shut up in the womb (the womb of this age) and prevented from coming to birth. Wrong is going to depart before Right, as Darkness departs before Light. As smoke disappears and is no more, so will Wrong disappear forever. But Right will be revealed like the Sun. The world will rest on a sound foundation. All who cling to (wrong interpretations) will cease to exist. The world will be filled with knowledge, and ignorance exist no more.
The thing is certain to come. The prophecy is true, and by this you may know that it will not be revoked:
Do not all peoples hate wrongdoing? Yet is it not rampant among them all? Are not the praises of truth sung by all nations? Yet is there a single race or tribe that really adheres to it? What nation likes to be oppressed by a stronger power? Or who wants his property plundered unjustly? Yet is there a single nation that has not oppressed its neighbor? Or where in the world will you find a people that has not plundered the property of another? The Dead Sea Scriptures, p.429.
We concluded that there is only one nation on earth that is not guilty of these transgression, the one that is presently being born. It is comprised of every race, and every religious tradition of humankind. It will be born here at the Western ends of the earth. We reminded ourselves to be in harmony with the process, and to embrace the idea and the reality of the Divine Mother as She gives birth to us all.
Among the many sponsors of the Schumacher Conference on Local Economies was Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures. One of the headings on the cover of the sample Fall, 2002, edition was "Beyond the Corporate Economy." Yes! In it, the chairman of Yes, David C. Korten, wrote:
"The suicide economy is a product of human choices motivated by the love of money. It is within our means to make different choices motivated by a love of life. We have created a suicide economy based on absentee ownership, monopoly, and the concentration of power delinked from obligations to people or place. Now we must create living economies based on locally rooted ownership and deeply held American ideals of equity, democracy, (local) markets, and personal responsibility.
In the place of a suicide economy devoted to maximizing returns to money, we can create living economies devoted to meeting the basic needs of people. In the place of a suicide economy in which the powerful reap the profits and the rest bear the cost, we can create a system of living economies in which decisions are made by those who bear the consequences.
In the place of the suicide economy's global trading system designed to allow the wealthy few to control the resources and dominate the markets of the many, we can create living economy trade through which each community exchanges those things it produces in surplus for those it cannot reasonably produce at home on terms that support living wage jobs and high environmental standards everywhere.
Under a system of relatively self-reliant local living economies, communities and nations will not find themselves pitted against one another for jobs, markets, and resources. In the absence of such competition, the free sharing of information, knowledge, and technology will become natural, to the mutual benefit of all."
So how are we going to get from here to there? Turning the pages of Yes, passing articles entitled: "Trying To Do Right," by Victor Bremson; "Let the Sun Shine In," by Ralph Estes; "Starting Over," by Lisa Garrigues; and one on Interest Free Banking in Sweden, by Richard Douthwaite, who was also one of the keynote speakers at the Bard Conference, we arrive at what is certainly the most important article in the entire edition:
IT SHALL BE A JUBILEE UNTO YOU
by Michael Hudson
Every complex society has a dilemma to solve--wealth and power tend to concentrate until the divide between haves and have-nots threaten the social fabric. Some Native American cultures have massive give-aways (potlaches) in which the giver is honored and all benefit from the largesse. The prophets of the Old Testament also cried out for redistribution.
"Agrarian life is full of risks: drought, flooding, infestation, and other natural disasters, capped throughout antiquity by wars. Farmers must often borrow to get themselves through the lean months, while hoping that nothing prevents them from bringing in crops that will allow them to repay their debts. In ancient times, failure to repay loans could cost farmers their land, possessions, enslavement of family members, or their own freedom. For millennia, the problem confronting rulers was how to prevent the destabilization that occurs when large portions of the population are forced off the land into debtor's prison for failure to repay loans.
And so there developed throughout the ancient Near East a tradition of clean-slate edicts, which "proclaimed justice" or decreed "economic order" and "righteousness" by canceling debts and restoring forfeited land to farmers....Eventually the tradition became known as the Jubilee Year, but by that time it was taken out of the hands of kings and placed at the core of Mosaic law...
The clean-slate tradition was so central to Israelite moral values that it framed the composition of both the Old and New Testaments. Yet so far has the modern idea of market efficiency and progress gone that today, although the Bible remains our civilization's defining book, its economic laws are rarely taken seriously. The...Commandments and Golden Rule have become so dissociated from the economic legislation of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy that whoever takes these laws in earnest is considered utopian and anachronistic...
Exodus, chapters 12 and 13.
...Yet these laws formed the take-off point for Jesus upon his return to Nazareth's synagogue and for his denunciation of the money changers who had taken over Jerusalem's temple. As recently as medieval Spain, the tradition of the Jubilee Year was kept alive by Jewish sages. To dismiss these laws was to remove much of the Bible from the context of its times (as well as our times).
Laws that periodically cancelled debts, freed Israelite debt-servants, and returned lands to their traditional holders have confused Biblical students for centuries. They have long been virtually ignored by historians on the ground that, to modern eyes, they would seem to wreak economic havoc...
Jesus later sought to restore the (ordinances) by overturning the banking tables in Jerusalem's temple and preaching anew the promise of Jeremiah to proclaim equity and liberty throughout the land. Indeed, it was specifically on this principle of restoring freedom to debt-slaves and unburdening the land that Christianity elaborated its ideas of redemption. In addition to redeeming souls, early Christians redeemed their co-religionists from worldly bondage. When Handel staged the first performance of his Messiah in Dublin in 1742, it was no coincidence that the proceeds were used to free debtors from prison. For thousands of years, redeeming people and land from debt was the primary and most concrete form of redemption. When Christians pronounce Hallelujah, the repeat the ritual term alulu, chanted upon the freedom of Babylonian debt-slaves.
Echoes of the doctrine can also be heard in American tradition. The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is inscribed with a quotation from Leviticus 25:10: Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof...
This is where we must exercise extreme maturity in our interpretation of history. The founders of the American order borrowed (stole) the phrase from sacred writ, but never freed a soul. Instead, began (or rather continued), the systematic process of genocide, land stealing, and the gradual enslavement of future generations in the New Secular Order. Open the pages of the Book of Isaiah. The American nation was founded in absolute violation of the teachings of the Law and the Prophets (not in violation of the Law itself mind you, but of the teachings of the Law, for the higher Law necessitated the existence of America, so that the Light could be born out of it).
...The full verse in Leviticus speaks of freeing debt bondsmen and freeing the land from debt generally: Hallow the Fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land and to all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a Jubilee unto you, and ye shall return every man unto his family.
Rome was the first society not to cancel its debt (?). And we all know what happened to it..."
Whether this statement is correct or not, we do know what happened to Rome. And we do know what happened to the Holy Roman Empire that succeeded it. We watched it collapse before our very eyes in the First and Second judgment wars of the 20th century. And those with the sight can plainly see what is about to happen in the world today.
During the closing hours of the conference, when everyone was invited to offer some parting thoughts, we shared those of a seven-year old girl from West Virginia, Kalila Baker. Her's were fitting words to end a conference on Alternative Local Economies. Kalila went with her family a year or so before to a Rainbow Family gathering at the Upper Peninsular in Michigan. The gathering has been held continuously, at a different national forest every year, since the early 1970s. Thousands come together every summer to recreate, however temporary, a model of a true communal society. (Creative and submissive anarchy, and nonviolence, are the guiding principles). In the weeks leading up to the fourth of July the village (a mile or two long at times) takes shape, small bridges are built (and disassembled again after the gathering...everything is returned to the way it was), free kitchens are set up, fruitful conversation and music fill the air, and the sound of "Welcome Home" is heard everywhere throughout the village. The point here is that, though American dollars are used in the local towns to purchase foodstuff and other supplies for the kitchens they are not used anywhere inside the gathering itself. All commerce inside the village is conducted either through time sharing or direct barter, and as often as not things and necessities, as well as labor, are just given away for nothing. "What goes around, comes around" is a sound economic principle, and functions almost effortlessly wherever the heart and the mind of the people are in alignment. Kalila, not knowing the ways of the Rainbow Family Gathering, set off down the main trail with her sisters and brothers with some dollars in her pocket and a handful of change, hoping to trade for some of the beautiful items (jewelry and other things) that were on display along the way. About an hour later she came back to the tent, took all of the money out of her pocket and threw it on the ground. She said, "Mom, this stuff is no good around here."
(She later figured it out, and went down the trail again with some little things that she made herself, and with a determination to trade some labor, and came home with a pocket full of bead works and bracelets).
Perhaps the most fitting way to end this essay is to share the lesson I learned from Chris Lindstrom's mother, Abbey Rockefeller. During a conversation together one afternoon I used the word nature, carelessly now that I understand it. "That's a bad word," she said, "and nothing will ever change until we stop using it." "What do you mean?" I asked. "We always use that word as if Nature was something else," she said. "There is no sense of Oneness between ourselves and all that exists, when we define all that exists as something different from ourselves." What she said rang true, after all what are we but a wholly magical arrangement of...well, water and earth, fire and air. We are created out of...Nature. "Our use of that word," she explained, "leaves room, even ever so slightly, to imagine ourselves to be separate, or above, or removed from the reality of our own existence. It is impersonal and leaves room for disrespect, and opens an opportunity in our minds for misuse and exploitation." I understood exactly what she was saying, and will try in the future not to use that word, at least not in that way. It will be difficult at times, however, like finding another word for Mother, or Father, or God.
KEEPING IT RIGHTEOUS IN A MATERIAL WORLD
THEY FLED MAINSTREAM SOCIETY TO LIVE IN COMMUNES, BUT NOW MANY UTOPIANS EMBRACE CAPITALISM AS A TOOL OF SURVIVAL
By Anne-Marie O'Connor
Los Angeles Times
Albert Bates grows nostalgic remembering the freewheeling days when hundreds of hippies left Haight-Ashbury in a caravan of psychedelic buses for a celebrated back-to-the-land pilgrimage. Bates was a law student when this electric circus rolled through New York in 1970, and he found it irresistible. Soon he followed, joining a young affluent exodus to the American countryside that would be one of the most profound social experiments of its time.
His long hair and beard have grayed, but Bates still lives on The Farm, the storied American commune he helped build in backwoods Tennessee. Sipping Mystic Brew organic coffee at its eco-village, he chuckles at the memory of the trippy energy that once inspired some communards to boot up their Macintoshes and design a Geiger counter they sold, for almost nothing, as a dashboard ornament for anti-nuke protesters."It was a novelty item, but it turned out to be very accurate," Bates says with a grin. "It was pretty funny."
The homegrown Nuke-Buster is no joke now. Today, the computerized, satellite-accessible nuclear detectors are used worldwide by police, military, firefighters and federal disaster officials. They are used to stem nuclear contraband at the borders that Belarus and Kazakhistan share with Russia. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks, sales have risen 30 percent, to $2.5 million last year. The Farm-based manufacturer has been commended by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Not bad for a place that spent years under FBI surveillance.
"Homeland Security's been good to us. We're high-tech hippies now," says Stephen Gaskin, the charismatic former San Francisco State University lecturer who was once the Farm's guru, preaching a long-abandoned doctrine of multiple-partner marriage and marijuana spiritualism. "WE HAD TO FIND WAYS TO SURVIVE," echoed Bates, "IN THE MATERIAL WORLD."
Hundreds of American utopian communities face the same challenge. A surprising number are thriving. BUT IF AMERICAN COMMUNITIES WERE ONCE, IN THE EYES OF JOAN DIDION, "SLOUCHING TOWARD BETHLEHEM," MANY TODAY LEAN CLOSER TO MERRILL LYNCH. TIE-DYE, WOOD-BURNING STOVES AND MANDALAS STILL ABOUND. BUT SO DO MULTIMILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRIES AND FINANCIAL RESTRUCTURING THAT RESIDENTS LIKEN TO THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE COMMUNIST WORLD....
THEY MAY HAVE DROPPED OUT OF MAINSTREAM SOCIETY TO LIVE A UTOPIAN DREAM, BUT NOW THEY EMBRACE CAPITALISM AS A TOOL OF SURVIVAL, ON THEIR OWN TERMS. Most, including The Farm, no longer define themselves as communes, describing themselves as collectives, cooperatives and egalitarian communities.
More than 600 such settlements in the United States are listed in the directory of the Fellowship for Intentional Community. The Fellowship's executive secretary, Laird Schaub, estimates that at least 10,000 Americans live in rural collectives. That population could climb as high as 150,000 when religion-based cooperative communities--such as the Hutterites, who do not believe in private property--are factored in, according to University of Kansas religion professor Tim Miller, who studies communal life.
People in their 20s and 30s still join collectives, but more newcomers than ever before are older than 50, Schaub said. "There's a surge," said Schaub, a member of the 30-year-old Sandhill commune in Rutledge, Mo. "We've been astounded at how easy it is to get summer interns who want to learn about organic farming. We have to turn them away."
The communities produce industrial strength quantities of organic nut butters, artisanal cheeses, vegetables, tofu, hammocks, commercial vegetable and flower seeds--even a desert wine endorsed by European wine snobs. Virginia's Twin Oaks produces hammocks for Pier One. The nut butters produced by a Missouri commune, East Wind, supply such mainstream chains as Whole Foods and Wild Oats, whose stores also market Sandhill's organic sorghum. In a region where family farms have become an endangered species, organic farms such as Sandhill are lauded by the Missouri Department of Agriculture Web page as possible models for survival.
Some communities, like Harbin Hot Springs, in the Northern California town of Middleton, host paying tourists with such amenities as hikes and shiatsu massage. Inisfree, in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, runs a boarding school for disabled children, another community has a summer camp for urban kids. Sunrise Ranch in Colorado runs a conference and retreat center, a growing source of income. The communities have slick Web sites, marketing directors, federations, group health plans, hot lines, magazines, conventions and thick directories filled with romantic names...that evoke an ocean of idyllic yearning.
INVITING THE WORLD IN
Far from retreating from society, many invite the world in. Last year the Findhorn community is Scotland hosted a UN-affiliated environmental conference. The Farm started its own UN-recognized international relief agency called Plenty.
Yet at many communities, the graying elders are soul-searching as they ponder who will carry on their legacy. People interested in living there permanently are often aging 60s veterans who are among the 74 million baby boomers making the transition to senior citizenhood. Even at the venerable Farm, hundreds of commune-born children have grown up and moved to Nashville, New York or California. Few return to live at the end of this dirt track, past the farmhouse where the Confederate flag flaps in the breeze.
"There are people who need to see their children come back here, as an affirmation that what they did has legs," said Cynthia Holzapfel, the managing editor of the $1-million-a-year Farm-based Book Publishing Co., which has had several bestsellers: "Spiritual Midwifery," "Tofu Cookery" and :Defeating Diabetes." "I'm a little more Buddhist about it. We've built it If they're going to come, they're going to come," said Holzapfel.
Capitalism wasn't the only thing that happened to The Farm along the road to Utopia. The commune engaged in a collective divorce in 1982, firing its charismatic leader, Gaskin. Homes that once housed 60 people were given to single families, and residents were required to contribute $135 a month to the community foundation. The bitter exodus that ensued downsized The Farm from a 1,500-strong commune to a 200-member cooperative today.
That divisive rupture, like The Farm's ragtag infancy, is difficult to envision in the serene pastoral landscape beyond the pamphlet-filled visitors' center. Rustic wood-frame homes nestle in the trees and sun-bleached grasses of gentle hills, reminiscent of Northern California's Marin County...
A COUNTERCULTURE UNIVERSE
In those days 10,000 people visited The Farm a year. Most crashed for a few days, but about 1,500 stayed on to create a self-contained counterculture universe, complete with clinic, an ambulance service and a commune-wide phone system dubbed "Beatnick Bell." All money earned outside was handed over to The Farm. By 1982 many of these norms were being challenged. People were tired of being poor and wanted to keep their wages.
"People said, 'Why should he have that much authority?'" said Phil Schweitzer, co-director of The Farm's Media Village, a video production business. "We were now in our 30s, and we didn't want a charismatic leader." Gaskin was fired and the new trustees demanded cash dues. Hundreds left. Those who stayed after "the Changeover" began creating private businesses. When Carter-era subsidies for solar energy dried up, high-tech Farmies turned instead to radiation detectors.
Today, SE International, now a private company, is among the most lucrative businesses on The Farm. Its modular office park, decorated with soft blues and modern art, hums with activity. Men with long graying ponytails sit on large ergonomic balls, meticulously wiring board circuitry...
At The Farm, intimacy is a fact not an option. Old grudges dating from the Changeover resurface. Former spouses work side by side. For Holzapfel, the deep kinship is a contrast to the alienation and anonymity that dog some of her friends in mainstream America. "We have preserved a lot of old fashioned values," she said. "People today feels so disposable. We don't feel that way here. IF YOU FACE HARD TIMES, YOU'RE MORE LIKELY TO CUT YOUR OWN PAYCHECK THAN LAY PEOPLE OFF."
HIPPIE RETIREMENT HOME?
Yet the future still poses a question. Farm leadership wants to attract young families, BUT BANKS WILL NOT EXTEND LOANS FOR SINGLE-FAMILY HOMES WITHOUT INDIVIDUAL PROPERTY TITLES. The Farm is considering building rental housing; otherwise, "I can imagine The Farm becoming an old hippie retirement home," Schweitzer said. "I'd hate to see that happen." Gaskin has his own solution: He is building retirement cabins for an elder village he call Rosinante, the name of the bony, aging horse of Don Quixote, who was famed for tilting at windmills and embracing lost causes...
The Farm may have relinquished the free-floating exuberance of youth, BUT PERHAPS IT HAS ACQUIRED AN EQUALLY VALUABLE IDEALISM OF ANOTHER VINTAGE. "NOW THE FARM HAS THE WISDOM OF OLDER PEOPLE," said Douglas Stevenson, the 30-year Farm veteran who steered the Swan Creek Project to fruition. THAT KIND OF EXPERIENCE HELPS GUIDE YOU TO SUCCESS. IT'S ONE THING WE DIDN''T HAVE IN THE OLD DAYS."
----- Original Message -----
From: Michael Murphy
To: Vickey Baker and others.
Sent: Friday, July 09, 2004
Subject: Re: Recent Conference
I have just posted an essay on Chris's Local Currencies Conference on the website. It was a great conference. You might look through it when you can. Love to all...
From: Vickey Baker
Subject: Re: Recent Conference
Well...pretty impressive (wishing I was able to be there), only one little (thing) that didn't rest well in my mind.. While reading through this...I thought it to be great..But!!...it struck me as odd that here was a CONFERENCE ON LOCAL AND ALTERNATIVE CURRENCIES.. And it COST how much(?) to attend ? The conference could have been more suited being held in an open field..or maybe an old abandoned wharehouse somewhere... why not? I think it would have been more affective..more powerful to live your message as Gandhi would say "My life is my message."Think about it..Who were (they) getting the message across to? Already believers..Next CONFERENCE should be open to the WHOLE (to everyone)...as in COMMUNITY (break it down..UNITY) not just those who can afford it... like share the "APPLE" the forbidden fruit..Like pass the cup around please... Am I making sense? Just my thoughts but...Well it's late..or is it early?
Anyways I DID enjoy all the positive thoughts..and am so looking forward to living in COMMUNITY where self no longer needs to be put first to survive. I can hardly wait for the New Day where people (all of Humanity) learn to live together in Unity..peace and LOVE..
Okay.. I'm going to bed..I love you ..always
From: Michael Murphy
To: Vickey Baker
This is a very good point, and I will pass it along when I see Chris...
From: Vickey Baker
To: Michael Murphy
Do you think it was? Really? I was not trying to be mean..It's just that words from the heart, are like water, they nourish the trees, the land. Everything that IS should be free, free for all not just for those with money. I don't know dad..Maybe it's a silly thought that makes no sense..Please don't pass this along unless you agree...Because "I'm not a smart man , but I do know what love is..(Jenny)!!"