Over on the notesfiles someone asked about our Life Dreams, what we'd be doing if we were living our dream right now. Here's what I said. What is your life dream?
I would be sustainably unemployed living and working as part of an "urban commune", a group of people working and playing together to sustain their mutual unemployment, build their community, do activist work, grow food, be off the grid, cook and clean together, raise some kids, and throw lots of parties.
The commune would be made up of adjacent properties all bound together into a community land trust sharing land for collective gardening/farming. The commune would produce organic food, solar electricity, biodiesel, and ethanol. The commune would have a few shared vehicles (a converted school bus for mass transit and long term travel, a pickup truck for agricultural and construction needs, a fuel efficient economy car for trips that bikes and trains won't serve for) and lots of bikes. There would be a performance space, a guest house, several workshops and studios. The commune would be allied with a number of local organizations (food coop, farmers market, housing coop, IMC, etc) for resource sharing. Misc. monetary needs would be covered by sale of surplus production through cooperative enterprises.
Though unemployed, we'd all be working hard but it'd be on our own terms for something we care passionately about.
The thing is, I honestly think something like this will come together in this town within the next 10 years. This isn't just a dream, it is a goal. There are people who live like this. I know I can join them. I intend to spend some time over the next few years visiting intentional communities around the country and learning how they do things, the troubles they have, how they got started, and what they do well.
The only real obstacle for me is getting my student debts and a big hunk of my mortgage payed off. As long as I owe money, I have to earn money. There's also a significant need for startup capital which has to be built up/saved over time. Hence why I don't think it can happen immediately.
And this was my answer to a clarifying question about whether people could hold outside jobs if they wanted to.
There's all kinds of ways that membership in the commune could work. Different groups do it different ways, and that is one of the things I'd like to study at existing communities.
One thing to keep in mind is that every commune needs money and individuals in the commune need money. No matter how off the grid you are there will be things you need cash for. Property taxes, going to a cool local concert, new parts for the bus, new roof for the house, a trip to visit family or friends, contributions to charities, splurging on some exotic food, etc. I have no interest in giving up the ability to interact with the rest of society, and that takes money. If I wanted to be isolated and live in the wilderness I wouldn't bother with an _urban_ commune.
So my thinking is that the goal is to set up the cooperative structures in such a way that people are provided, through common shared labor, with the necessities of life and that the labor required to do that be something like a half-time job or less. Members would be expected to share in that work in some way or other (there would be some division of labor issues to work out). Doing that work earns you a place to sleep, food, energy (biofuel and solar), and possibly other shared services like childcare. Beyond that you are welcome to do whatever you wish. You can work another job and any money you earn would be yours to do with as you please. You can take on work when you need extra money but have the safety net of basic neccessities being met if you choose not to work an outside job.
There's also the possibility of having associate members to the cooperative. These would be folks who maybe live in the shared housing and pay rent and have regular jobs rather than being long term sustaining workers. Or these could be people who participate in some of the work and enjoy some of the benefits but don't live in the housing. Exactly what different kinds of membership exist and what different benefits different levels have are all going to depend on the people and communal resources actually involved. The key is to have a group of people committed to making democratic (probably consensus based) decisions about the cooperative's resources, the rest is the details.
I imagine this thing growing organically and maybe being a federation of lots of smaller cooperatives. For instance a group of people might band together to create a biodiesel coop, another group might create a converted school bus coop, another group might create a tool sharing coop for homeowners, another group might create a bakers coop, another group might form a vegetable growers coop. If these things were all coordinated within a community setting, if they were all accessible to each other, then as each coop matures they can start to work together and federate. So my plan isn't just "wait 10 years and then conjure a coop out of my ass", it is to constantly explore ways that I can a) reduce my monthly expenses and debts and live with less consumption b) pool and share resources democratically with my fellow community members for the benefit of all. Right now my work with indymedia is my central focus. I see the purchase of a large building for indymedia as a MAJOR shared resource for the community that could end up being the seed for much of this organizing. I also have plenty of vision for my own home and land so continuing to build equity in that fits in to the plan.