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non consensus IC models  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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Maybe other folks would say that these don't count, but if they do say that, i would like to hear why.  In the meantime, here are some places where people live together ten or more years, without an official consensus form of managing the group.  I think it is worth mentioning and considering.

Old folks home

Monestary / convent

Can anybody add to this list?





 
Jami McBride
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What is your point.... These 'groups' listed are managed by set authorities and chain of command, they are not self managed or democracies.  Are you suggesting your 20 people in one house would run perfectly if you were in 'charge', well that maybe true but I doubt your going to get 20 people to go for it.

Not requiring a consensus in order to get things done is why most groups use established government (rules & processes) by a governing body of some kind.

My kids have lived with me for more than 10 years 'without an official consensus' because I decide all the issues, set all the rules, police, settle squabbles, etc.

If your point is that people don't need to be extremely like minded (consensus minded) to live together, in one-building and harmoniously then you are doing to have to give examples without strong authority models - IMO.

 
paul wheaton
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paul wheaton
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The communities that are managed by consensus are covered really well.  And a lot is written about different flavors of consensus.

I wish to validate that there are people living voluntarily under one roof under a non-consensus model. 

I think if a person wanted to discussion consensus vs. non-consensus, that would make for an excellent thread.  But I don't think it would be good for this thread. 

I would really like this thread to try to demonstrate non consensus communities and, perhaps, explore how they work.



 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Military base 
College dormitory (perhaps the college as a whole, if not integrated into a city
New religious movement compound 
Covenant/HOA-governed suburban housing development 
Colonial mission
Special economic zone (e.g., Shenzen)
Antebellum, slave-run plantation
Windjammer-era sailing ship
Israeli settlement in Gaza
The International Space Station
Company town of the Gilded Age

I could probably think of more. But a pattern is emerging here...
 
paul wheaton
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A submarine might be a really excellent example.

I remember a lot of IC's that were considered "best" had a turnover rate of six to 24 months.  I visited one where there was something like 30 people and I think only one person had been there longer than 2 years - even though the IC had existed for 13 years (at the time of my visit). 

I kinda think about signs that a group of people living together is working is that most people have lived there longer than 2 years.  And a few have lived there longer than, say, seven years. 

So a typical IC is consensus based.  How many consensus IC's meet the above requirements (most people there more than 2, and at least a few more than 7)?  100?

How many old folks homes are there that meet this criteria?  20,000? 

Submarines?  100?

Monasteries?  300?

Granted, I don't wanna live in a monastery or a submarine.  And I'm not yet ready for the old folks home.  But I can imagine something like an old folks home that could be a fit for me. 

If sepp holzer had a lodge-ish thing with room for another 15 people - that could be very appealing.

 
                    
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What about:

A group writes a "constitution" of basic ethical beliefs, this process is definitely achieved by consensus.  A mission statement with rules, we'll say. 

Then, each person in the group (or family/couple/whatever) gets most of the authority and accountability for one system on the farm (or ecovillage or house) - the ponds, the pigs, the chickens, the grain, the veggies, the fruit trees, building maintanence, roadwork, forestry....whatever. 

Each person can organize work missions for their area of expertise, so the labor would still be shared and one person wouldn't be stuck doing the same job all the time (unless they wanted that). 

The group would be used as a sounding board for decisions and brainstorming, but as it is understood that person in charge has been given their job for good reasons (knowledge and experience, namely), they are trusted with ultimate veto power in their task.  A power-share?

The constitution would check what people can do.  Maybe sort of "supreme court" with the possibility of a taking a vote on an issue, if it's questioned whether some one's proposed actions would seem to violate the 'constitution.' 

?

oh and:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Xd_zkMEgkI&feature=fvst[/youtube]

Honestly the system described sounds like it could work.  "I thought we were an autonomous collective...."
 
paul wheaton
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Setting aside the watery tart throwing a sword at somebody like arthur .... 

Most IC's are based on consensus and have a collection of formal documents to help things be smooth. 

As for authority being given to those with expertise in an area.  I think there is a lot to be said for that.

I have visited a lot of IC's and a lot of farms.  I once visited a farm where the land was owned by a trust fund that said all decisions were to be made by consensus.  When I first visited the farm, there was one guy that seemed to be the most knowledgeable about farming.  Everybody seemed to trust him rather completely.  So each person did exactly as you suggest:  they sorta ran an aspect of the farm.  And once in a while they would check in with the smart guy to see what he thought.  The farm prospered.  Lots of good crops, lots of good classes.  Lots of cash flow and growth.  You could say it was consensus because everybody basically gave consent to this system.

Then, one day, one woman decided she wanted to do something contrary to what this one guy wanted to do.  And then it grew into something where she wanted to be in charge.  And then she activated consensus.  Everything came to a screeching halt.  A year later, everybody but the one woman moved away.  Eventually, the land trust board evicted her. 

As for the days when everything ran smoothly - I tucked that away in my head as "organic aspect management":  each person manages and aspect and one trusted person manages the choreography between the aspects. 

It really isn't that much different from a corporation.  A manager manages five people, each of whom are working on chunks.  And that manager is managed by a director, who might be directing five managers .... and so on. 

At damanhur, a household elects a household leader every year. 

At an old folks home, if enough people leave, the manager is replaced.  Same goes for a submarine or a monestary. 

I think these systems would be awful if they were managed by somebody icky.  But they would be smooth if managed by somebody decent.  In a consensus system, it seems the only way for the system to work well is if everybody involved is decent. 

Therefore, any group that starts out with consensus is saying that everybody involved thinks everybody else that is part of the group is decent.  I think this reflects really well on good hearts of everybody:  they think well of others!

And it reflects poorly on me:  I think most people look great at the beginning and then it turns out most of them are far more interesting. 



everyone_seems_normal.jpg
[Thumbnail for everyone_seems_normal.jpg]
 
                    
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hmm, Polyface might be run a bit like that - organic aspect management.  It's also very nepotistic, but that's their prerogative.  Joel is the dude with the ultimate veto power but he likes to give children responsibitity and authority over a specialization - David with his rabbit operation, for instance.  His book I haven't read yet "family friendly farming" talks all about it (imagine that!). 

Americans particularly seem to be uncomfortable with someone having too much or too little power.  Absolute consensus strikes me as a messy and labor intensive (oh probably because - it is!) way of making decisions.  I feel like people like to have something that is "theirs" and I feel I should find people who also think that's a basic human desire that can be managed, not a "bad thing" to squish or abolish entirely.  It's probably not a good idea for me to try and live in community with someone who doesn't want anything to do with personal possessions.  This is the kind of information you try to find out right away, by having those squeamishly uncomfortable "political" discussions. 

Ok, and here I'm not sticking to the topic again, please forgive me.

What about decisions in supposedly consensus based communities where certain members "stand aside" and allow something to happen rather than outright agree?  Is that truly consensus?  How often do "consensus" based ICs actually strictly adhere to that policy 100% of the time - in practice?  The theory's great and all....

I really think a group has to have some kind of deep basic thing(s) binding them together or it's not going to work no matter how you set it up.  But that's definitely a different thread.
 
paul wheaton
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A submarine might be a really excellent example.


A close friend of mine spent 9 years in the Navy, a good portion of it a sub, and he said it was one of the most beautiful and efficient examples of communal living he's ever experienced.  The hierarchy never goes away, but things relax a bit when you're underwater and out to sea for months a time.  There is probably no better example of complete dependency of every single person on every other person.  It's absolutely essential that everyone knows what they're supposed to do and does it well.  Otherwise.....well....everyone's sunk. 
 
Jami McBride
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Hum... yes living on a sub would require great efficiency in living, but (playing devils advocate here  :evil we cannot romanticize these living arrangements (and the others listed here) forgetting to balance them with the reality of the system of punishment and the system of management required to achieve such harmony.

In order to achieve such harmony on our own permies-plans are we willing to install a militant system of management? <--- hypothetical of course.

I get that looking at the way others do things, and breaking them down can lead to much understanding and useful information.  However, I believe these tight living arrangements without consensus work - because of the fear of punishment in one form or another, and not because they have any great insight into how to co-exist.  I know, I know I'm just repeating my earlier post. 

Well, you asked why Paul - and that is why These Don't Count....IMHO

 
                    
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the reality of the system of punishment and the system of management required to achieve such harmony.


I welcome devils advocating!  Anytime!

Well, that's my perception of the military as well.  But as I've never actually been enlisted (knock on wood - anything can happen in the 21st century, folks!  we aren't exactly avoiding war as a nation but oh that's another thread for the bottom of the forum page),  I have only the accounts of people I know who have been 'on the inside' as it were. 

And the amazing thing, to me, about my friend's story about living on the sub is that it wasn't at all about fear of punishment.  I guess especially on a nuclear submarine, everything, every promotion, every recognition, is awarded absolutely by merit.  And so the people in charge are extremely able people, skilled managers who know the sub like no body's business, who make their inferior officers want to do things really well for them. 

I was surprised that the motivating spirit of his particular submarine (and I'm sure that different submarine crews have flavors as different as chocolate and vanilla) was to do a really really excellent job operating that submarine.  It had nothing what so ever to do with fear (like I said about it being "relaxed", the punishments on a sub can get sort of taken into the hands of the crew [more personal stories I will not share here - but - oooo doggies!], as it might be months til you can get back to land and start some kind of official punishment.)  Their ship was recognized for operating with a zero percent error rate for a really long time....maybe set some sort of record?  I don't remember. 

But...I don't disagree with your sentiments about the military, and I think that some kind of system not at all resembling the fear based brainwashed "yessir" attitude of the military can allow people to live together effectively, but maybe not quite consensus either.  We just have to use our BRAINS!  And our hearts. 
 
paul wheaton
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marina wrote:
A close friend of mine spent 9 years in the Navy,  


Wow!  Excellent info!

I would very much like to know what was the longest time spent on one sub.  So, perhaps six months at sea, two months off and repeat eight times - I would count that at four years.

 
                    
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I think....three months was usually the length of deployment?  I'll email him and ask if you want.  One of the smartest men I've ever met, by the way.  Now he's corporate: repairs radiology equipment for Hitachi in Houston, TX.  And I met him on a homestead (not mine) in northern california! 
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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I don't think there's all that much fear involved as a motivator in the military, at least not in our current military.  My ex was in the Air Force for ten years, and as Marina's submariner friend said, for most, the motivation was to do a good job, mostly for the sake of doing a good job, because they believed in what they were doing (protecting their country -- my ex was a radar operator, and his job was to watch for enemy planes trying to enter our airspace -- he found a few, too).  They also had the motivation of getting good performance reports.  But fear of punishment had to be very low on the scale of motivators, as I don't recall ever hearing my ex mention that, in ten years.  It's more like a brotherhood, I think -- and I believe that if you talk to some of the guys who've been in combat zones overseas, they'll tell you that, too.  They want to take care of one another. 

But I'm not sure that the military is a good comparison to intentional communities, either.  It's something that people sign up for, usually knowing to some degree what they are getting into, and in order to get out of it, they have to serve their term or do something pretty bad to get kicked out (or have a serious health problem).  They also have to do what they are told even if it isn't right, or, then the fear of punishment would come in.  Thankfully there are enough controls on superior officers that that isn't an issue very often.  (Balance of power is a good thing, as our Founding Fathers knew well.)

With monasteries, old-folks homes, the military, and so on, when people go into those places to live and work, they know in advance what they are getting into.  These are well-known social institutions in our culture.  If someone goes into the military or into a monastery, it's because they choose that life.  But intentional communities are still a 'new' amorphous social institution in our culture.  People go into them with different expectations, sometimes with expectations which, if realized, will probably destroy the community eventually.  I think that as time goes by, intentional communities might become more of a known social form, and maybe some of the problems will shake out. 

But I do think that successful communities will end up with some form of government other than total consensus.  The best communities will always allow everyone some kind of voice, but there will be an 'ultimate authority,' someone on whose shoulders the final decision rests.  If that person is wise, they'll recognize the knowledge and experience of those who know their one area well, and won't countermand them.  You can call them a father-figure, if you wish.  That's not a bad thing.  At one time, most cultures had a patriarch (or matriarch in some places) who 'ruled' over his entire tribe.  That didn't necessarily mean that he was a dictator, just that the final responsibility fell on his shoulders. 

I don't think we should toss old forms of social interaction just because they are old -- often those forms developed because that's what worked the best.  It's like the discussion about roof forms on another thread -- some of these up-turned and other oddly-shaped roofs are attractive in form, but they don't always function as well as the old tried-and-true gable roof, or shed roof.  There are certain functions that a roof must perform -- shedding water being the primary one -- or it isn't worthy of being called a roof!  In the same way, there are certain functions that people need to have in their societies.  When we try to break away and try new things just to be different, because new has got to be better than the old, traditional ways of doing things (rebellion, in other words), what we often find is that the old traditional ways of doing things worked, while the new rebellious ways don't work.  Not every old tradition is good (I can think of several that certainly aren't good), but I do think that when we are choosing forms for our societies, we ought to examine the old forms that we know are good before we try to invent new ways that may be in conflict with basic human nature. 

Sorry, Paul -- I got off the track of your thread there!

Kathleen
 
Jami McBride
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By Fear I mean if one doesn't perform as expected there are consequences.  I'm not suggesting pee-in-one's-pants fear, but the fear or respect of the consequences. 

If you all feel the listed groups are doing what they do because of consensus then I'll leave you to it, as I shake my head in disbelief.
 
                    
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  I think that as time goes by, intentional communities might become more of a known social form, and maybe some of the problems will shake out.


Yeah, I feel like we're in a period of time where we are realizing that absolute individualism is harmful for everyone involved in the long run.  We're learning to need each other again.  And there's going to be a learning curve. 

No offense to anyone, but I feel that my generation ( the Y's, or millennials, or echo-boomers) is probably going to be better at it (probably out of necessity) than the ones that have attempted it in the last few decades.  Gen Xers especially seem to have a hard time on the whole (something to do with being a young adult in the "me" decade perhaps?).  And hopefully my kids will grow up with some idea of the importance of community and it will be even smoother for them.  The shoulders of our ancestors. 

Jami - they are not at all like consensus!  That's the title of this thread, right? 

I'm starting to think that consensus as a decision making process attracts people who all want to get what THEY want....and in a group of people who are all supposed to agree but can't actually let go of their individual desires....chances are that community isn't going to work very long. 

I think there are personality types who would rather have a (hopefully) smarter someone make decisions for them, who are totally comfortable with the idea of an authority laying out the rules, because then their job is simplified: just follow the rules.  Making the rules and keeping everyone happy is the hard part, usually. 

Not all of us are Type-A, bashing down doors to get what we need.  The better marriages I've seen consist of an active and passive party.  What's the phrase....Opposites attract?  But in regards to community I've also said that apples should stick with apples....    dangit.  Complicateder and complicateder. 
 
Jami McBride
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And Marina - apparently your that Type-A 
 
                    
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I'm my mama's daughter, after all. 
 
paul wheaton
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marina phillips wrote:
I think....three months was usually the length of deployment?  I'll email him and ask if you want.  


Please! 


 
                                  
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The people on a submarine are passive ( as far as conflict with others ) because they have very little choice. If they have a tantrum, or disobey orders from a "superior" they are punished. I think in America there is a myth of individual freedom of choice that is supposed to enhance ones' life. All the different clothes we can buy to make our identities different than someone else. To be unique is to have the chance of being a big success. To go along with the crowd you have little chance of making it big.
  When our choices start getting limited by this economic downturn, and possibly long term depression, the american lifestyle is going to change. When food and shelter become harder and harder to get, i think you will find a lot of people being able to work out their differences to form IC's. If one can not get along with others then they are kicked out of the group. It is going to take pulling together of resources if times get really tough. If you can not work well with others and still are stuck in the "i want to be different and a unique individual " game...good luck, it is not going to work.
  I think it will take another 250 years of evolution for mankind to quit hoarding for themselves and see that it is best for each other, nature, and the future of their children to work together for the well being of all people. We are all still so self motivated, that we can not see or learn a different approach by choice. Like the submarine, we have to thrown together and have very little choice, like caged animals, to behave decently.....
 
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  We ought to remember that according to anthropological evidence, genetically modern humans lived cooperatively for tens of thousands of years.
  To over- simplify, agricultural surplus leads to math and written language, money, population explosion, and armies, cities and Empire soon follow. The Romans had democracy, central heating, hot baths and indoor toilets, but revolution and the plague nipped that in the bud for  the next  2000 years.
  Its pretty interesting to think about COLLAPSE and what keeps groups of people viable in a particular way of life.
  I think Paul was asking, what works? Why? How?
  I enjoy reading about 19th century Utopian communities, such as the Amana colony on Wikipedia.
 
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sounds like you're looking for Plato's philosopher-kings to run your Callipolis, Paul.
 
paul wheaton
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Spanglefeathe wrote:
   We ought to remember that according to anthropological evidence, genetically modern humans lived cooperatively for tens of thousands of years.
 


Well, I wasn't there but I read a bit about it.  And while I get the impression that there was some cooperative stuff going on, complete with some amazing growth from time to time, there was also a lot of bloodshed.  And bloodshed seems less than cooperative.

So, I guess it was a bit mixed?

 
paul wheaton
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tel wrote:
sounds like you're looking for Plato's philosopher-kings to run your Callipolis, Paul.


I wouldn't say that.

I would like to paint a picture of a large farmhouse with a farmer and lots of folks living in the farmhouse.  I think that one could call it a sort of community.





 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I think the contrast will help to reveal what's important in deciding the success or failure of a community. One example:

Both the military and most religious compounds put a lot of work into establishing appropriate and, perhaps more importantly, uniform habits. No one cuts their hair in the sink because all our heads were shaved together, or because harming one's hair goes against nature and mutilates the image of the Divine...

A lot of the cooperative housing I've seen work has been based on shared dietary restrictions. Cafe Gratitude (a raw vegan restaurant chain related to Landmark Education and Werner Erhard) has a definite diet-identity component, but also a distinctive, regimented optimism of speech. I think uniformity in these habits within the group, and their contrast to the outside world, really helps foster a feeling of unity.

People feel a lot of sovereignty over their personal life. I wonder if the average intentional community would do better if they were up-front about the changes in habit required to live there, and set aside time (a week? a month?) for the hard work and discomfort of changing over. I find bringing a person's ego into it with in-group games to be distasteful and expect it to always have bad side-effects, but a little formality probably wouldn't hurt.
 
                                            
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Maybe I'm odd, but I dig the idea of ranch-handing or the like.  As someone who doesn't have a problem with authority and lacking a background in farming/agriculture I would love to live in a community under a farmer/landowner where I can work under someone and learn/refine the skills I need without having to have a direct stake in the responsibilities of the overall community.

Coming in as a farm-hand/ranch-hand/share-cropper and being responsible for meeting my obligations and doing the work at hand is about as much political involvement I want in a community. I don't have the patience or optimism to think that things can get solved in a committee and I'd rather save myself the headache and just opt out and do what I'm good at, getting a job done.

Paul's example of the one trusted farmer being the "go-to" guy reflects a lot of the experience I've had in "consensus" situations. Whether by vote or by land-ownership or by unconscious behavior the groups have always ended up gravitating to a leader who they turn to as the final say.  Folks handle their areas of responsibility, but they all tend to want someone to be the conductor making sure all the pieces are fitting together. 

 
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What about relationships within and among friendships and domestic partnerships?  Many circles of friendship among families with children operate over 5-10 years to collectively raise children without consensus.  Children are given limited authority because they lack experience with consequences.  Some consensus organizations have 'full' and 'partial' citizenship based on exploratory periods.

I think this consensus/no consensus storyline is a false dichotomy - most functioning social systems combine multiple and nested forms of decision making.  Some actions are considered public some are private.  Not all public decision require a formal consensual process.  Private decisions in one social melieu are public in others.  There is a difference between cooperation and consensus process.  When it comes to decisions over shared resources, consensus is hard to beat, the question is how much of your life you try to stuff in the 'shared resource' pot.

With or without consensus, isn't there always consequence and risk of punishment, even if it is only social disapproval or exclusion?

I work in hierarchical organizations, and the best managers spend time either giving people authority, creating space for people to do the work they love, or facilitating concensus (all where they believe it achieves the prescribed objectives).  Many inter-agency organizations operate by consensus to aggregate resources toward shared objectives or to gain legitimacy (and do so poorly because of limited time and fear of sharing, or do so well after having spent much time together.)  Because I am not entirely dependant on my organization (i.e. I am free to sell my labor elsewhere) I am in a consensual and cooperative relationship with an autocratic institution that has shared objectives.




 
paul wheaton
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I think most hierarchical systems use consensus at the core.  The hierarchy is reserved for when consensus isn't working so well.

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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paul wheaton wrote: The hierarchy is reserved for when consensus isn't working so well.


It is very difficult to make that sort of reservation stick, in the long term.

If some entity happens by (or arises) that would benefit from hierarchy, there are lots of ways for that entity to poison consensus.

More generally, states of exception can be introduced and permanently maintained, if that would open the door to "exceptional" privileges. For example, the duly elected rulers of ancient Sparta declared war on the majority of the population of Sparta every year, so that an exception could be made such that the ethnic group in question would not have the rights ancient Greek society traditionally accorded to slaves, and so that citizens never had to do honest work. There are more recent examples, of course, but I don't want to bring up current politics.

Leaders like Vinegar Joe Stilwell became famous for not letting hierarchy interfere with their work, partly because working as you describe (consensus until hierarchy seems appropriate) makes a leader uncommonly good at their job. I think there are structural reasons that this attitude is uncommon enough to be a claim to fame. It seems prudent to foster that sort of attitude with a fair amount of effort and forethought, if a system is expected to undergo changes in leadership.
 
Seth Pogue
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Another important consideration is that how well a consensual community holds together may be a function of the emotional maturity of its members.  Far too many people – it could be argued the majority of humankind - are motivated by the drive to satisfy their selfish cravings and aversions. 
    The only constant is change.  All things arise, exist for a while, and then pass away. When we cling to things, then suffering predictably follows as these things are inevitably torn from our grasp.  When we reach the point when we allow room in our lives for the gifts that lie hidden within the new objects/philosophies/institutions/people/landscapes that arise to take their place, we become free. A river does not cling to its water, but it is always full.
  A two year old hasn’t learned this yet.  Selfish, clinging, grasping.  I want this, and I want this, and I want this…for me.   Me me me. But I don’t like that, or that, or that…so I push it away.   And lash out if anyone tries to stop me.
   Sadly, many of our fellow humans exhibit the emotional maturity of oversized 2-year-olds. They’re not operating from a place of heart, or of mind, much less of intuition.  They’re running largely on emotion – primitive, automatic responses, controlled by the limbic system (aka monkey brain) which include fear, hate, jealousy, desire, greed, envy, pride. Try to put people like this (arguably most people) in a consensual living situation and failure is inevitable.  With such people, a hierarchy of government, with a system of  rewards and punishments, may be the only way to maintain some semblance of cooperative harmony.  A house full of toddlers needs a parent.
   Fortunately, many people who seek communal living have matured past than this level.  But it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch.
  Those selfless souls who aspire to build a community where everyone has an equal voice, and nobody is turned away, are destined to learn the hard way that not all people are as altruistic as themselves.
  So, for those who wish to operate within a consensual framework, screening for emotional maturity may be part of the answer.
 
paul wheaton
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
If some entity happens by (or arises) that would benefit from hierarchy, there are lots of ways for that entity to poison consensus.


True, and then you would need to trust that the person in charge would detect that and mend it.

 
                                      
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I like to fall back on my ancestors now and then.  On one side of the family, these were folks who lived for hundreds of years in one village.  They had the best example of consensus system I have ever seen.  Everybody got a vote and that seems like an impossible way to run things where absolute unanimous decisions were required.  But their success lay in their definition of consensus.

When all the talk was exhausted, and that could take some time, and a vote was asked for, everybody who agreed with the proposed action raised the hand with thumb up.  Those who were against raised the hand with thumb down.  Here's the interesting twist, those who were opposed, but did not require everyone to agree with them, raised the hand with thumb parallel to the ground.  Unanimous consensus was reached when all thumbs were either up or parallel.

In current Great Councils, many being restored all around the continent among First Nations People, we reach unanimous consensus, even though our Councils represent diverse peoples from diverse ways of life and socio-economic stations.

I am convinced that it is our definition of consensus that makes it float or sink.
 
Robert Ray
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Similar system of coming to a consensus was taught in a class I attended.  But it was based on a system of five fingers. One being: no way, three being I'll accept it but it is not my perfect solution, five being perfect. Once it was a show of three fingers and up it was agreed upon.
 
                                      
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The real point in arranging consensus this way is to illustrate the ethic that underlies the model.  People can come to unanimous consensus only so long as they disabuse themselves of the notion that everybody has to agree with them.  Once one no longer demands that everyone agrees with you, consensus can work, if only because the competitive paradigm has been removed (or at least put to bed for the meeting). 

The example given about the woman who ran everybody off and ended up getting evicted is prime.  Consensus to her meant that everybody had to agree - with her.  Not consensus at all. 

I agree with the observation that ICs in the U.S. don't seem to hold their members very long.  I too have not been able to find more than a handful of people how have lived in one for more than a couple of years.  I don't mean eco-cohousing, which I don't consider in the same light.  My personal take on this phenomenon is that they don't last because of the very communal nature of most of the communities. 

This has been troubling to me.  How did my ancestors live communally for hundreds of years?  The answer is, they didn't.  They lived in communities, but not in communes.  Sure, large families often lived under the same roof, but strict family protocols always prevailed, and they were usually ruled over rather dictatorially by the oldest female under the roof.  In this way, young men and women were encouraged by their environment to build their own lodges and begin family life on their own.  If they couldn't right of the bat, they were welcome in the family lodge.  But they usually struck out sooner or later.

The community was a perfect consensus society because each family maintained a separate peace in their homes.  Each family labored to produce what they needed to survive.  This was retained in the household.  They also labored to produce a surplus which was always distributed within the community.  This surplus was the key to their success.

I think this is a missing link in the IC movement.  Living together and working together doesn't have to mean "together." 

Permaculture Principles can work for individuals as well as for communities.  An individual can design and build a sustainable environment.  It's lonely, but it's doable.  Permanent Culture can only work when individuals who have designed such systems, or who are in that process, work to provide sustainable solutions for themselves and then return the surplus into such systems.  If they actually see their environment as more than their own immediate surroundings and needs, and actually figure  their neighbor into the equation, surpluses are returned into the system when they are distributed within the local community.  That can mean the rest of the people who live in the immediate system with them, or it can mean the system next door down, or the neighboring village, or within the Bioregion. 

In our observations of ICs, it is useful to note the failures of modern methods.  If we want to learn from them and create a model that will work over time, however, I think we must pay more attention to the systems that proved successful over generations.  We can sit on the edge of a Monsanto cornfield all the live long day and quantify all that's bad about it.  But useful solutions come out of observing how such grasses grow in natural systems, and also by observing Indigenous Peoples who successfully grew corn of many kinds without destroying the system. 

As yet, Permaculture as a movement in this country, is still sitting on the edge of the cornfield wondering.  We have not got to the definition of environment that admits more than just ourselves as individuals.  In this sense, with all our know-what, we have yet to develop enough know-how to make a community of it.
 
                        
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Perhaps the communities of the Amish, the Mennonites and the Hutterites could give some clarification as those communities have lasted a very long time, although they do have their drop outs as well. They have different lifestyles  one to the other it would seem (I know very little about them) but we have a lot of very large Mennonite and Hutterite communities across the prairies. I would guess much of their social structure shares many aspects with that of the Amish, although some things such as the enthusiastic use of technology is different. It appears to a casual outside view (and from occassional conversation with someone who fled from the community) that the private agenda of individuals is not considered to be of much importance. This might explain why the traditional view that ics based on a shared religious belief tend to last longer than secular ones.

Most people seem to need a fairly compelling reason to put their own interests behind that of the group in an ongoing basis. Since North American culture tends to be based on competition..prettier smarter more popular  faster stronger whiter teeth bigger house, greener habits etc..this is going to be a hard bit of conditioning to overcome for most people.Just a thought. 
 
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