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paul wheaton
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In 2005 I visited gobs of official IC's, poured through ic.org and other web sites, read Diana Leafe Christian's book and took two IC workshops (one from Diana and one from Robena McCurdy).  I interviewed dozens of people that were currently living in community with a strong focus on those that were leaving community. 

My analysis is two basic parts:

1)  Nearly everybody is sure that they can get consensus to work, but the downsides of consensus often turns out to be bigger than the upsides of community living.  But the advocates of consensus appear to be in a perpetual state of tweaking their system to mitigate these downsides (and, despite incredible pain from their systems, insist that it WILL work!).  I suspect that there are examples of systems that work, but I also suspect that those systems are pretty fragile.  Generally, a high rate of rejecting the founder.

2)  Farms with one person in charge and several people living on the land appear to have far less people stress.  People tend to live on the same plot of land longer.  A very low rate of rejecting the founder.

I asked Diana about this and she called it a fiefdom and that nobody would like to live that way except the ruler.  I thought that was a good point.  Sorta.  I tried to say "but what if ...." and ... well ... it was just as she was leaving so ....

I did lots more research.  Fiefdom isn't entirely accurate because that is based on a lord getting land because the lord sucks up to the king (or does something amazing in battle for said king - but sucking up must be maintained).

Most of the peasants have a chunk of land.  The favored peasants  get more land. 

So .... fast forward to the present ...  a farm owner has four helpers that stay on all year.  And maybe ten more helpers during the warmer months.  These people appear to have a lot of the perks of community without the downsides of consensus.  Of course, whether it is nice to live there or not depends entirely on the farm owner.  If the farm owner is icky, it would be wise to leave.  If the farm owner is cool, then you might never want to leave. 

And, of course, you could start off with a cool farm owner and then things change.  The farm owner turns icky, or the farm owner dies, or the farm owner marries somebody icky .... 

If your whole life fits in a backback, this might be no big deal.  But if your mission is to have roots, these things are important.  Very important.

Of course, the upside is that you are dealing with just one person instead of dealing with all of the people in consensus. 



 
Fred Morgan
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We have five families living on our properties. They are employees, called caretakers but also can have a couple of cows (I generally buy them), pigs (left over milk), chickens, etc. and a garden plot. We take care of the house (and build them at times!) as well as pay them a salary for working in the property.

They can be kicked out at anytime but a good caretaker is hard to find. As long as they treat us right, they aren't going anywhere.

But, the rules are ours for two reasons, our land and house, and I pay them.

and there is no way to kick me out. 
 
paul wheaton
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Fred Morgan
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paul wheaton wrote:
Have you ever had that sort of relationship go sour?




Sure, I just fire them...  It always amazes me when someone has a sweet deal, they still don't appreciate it.

I might seem like a nice guy, but really, when it comes to someone trying to take advantage of me I am not near as nice.

What I look for is people who wish to work together, instead of people who think since I have plenty, they can take some.

As I explain to new hires, those who have plenty often got that way because they value what they have.
 
paul wheaton
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Fred Morgan
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paul wheaton wrote:
30 days?



No time limit. It is a job, not an IC.

Sometimes I think we are eventually going to end up back in feudalism. 
 
paul wheaton
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Fred Morgan wrote:
No time limit. It is a job, not an IC.

Sometimes I think we are eventually going to end up back in feudalism. 


Well, how long does it usually take until they are all moved off of your land?

 
Fred Morgan
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paul wheaton wrote:
Well, how long does it usually take until they are all moved off of your land?




Depends what they did. The Costa Rican law gives a period of time based on how long they have been with you. Within a couple of years, it is one month. But, if they did something bad ("for cause" like a one caretaker just did (invited poachers onto the property when it is forbidden to hunt in the plantations, and is illegal due to part of Costa Rica as well) they get 24 hours - tops.

Violation of trust, you are out there, otherwise, you have plenty of time.
 
                    
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If your whole life fits in a backback, this might be no big deal.  But if your mission is to have roots, these things are important.  Very important.


This is a huge point Diana makes early and often in her book.  The psychological differences between a person that lives out of a backpack and a person willing/able to put down roots are generally huge and important. 

As a land owner, if all you can offer is a place to live for awhile, but no real decision making authority and therefore not a lot of security over their future, you're going to attract people who are comfortable with someone else being the owner-lord.  If I remember correctly, I think Diana compares this metaphorically to parenting.  The land owner (even the one who is good at managing people who live on their land) is going to feel like they are 'watching over' their 'children.'  Good children are allowed to stay, bad children get told to get lost.  And so it follows that the people attracted to this situation are probably not going to be as mature as those who require more responsibility and who are looking to share power more equally. 

As a member of a land trust, looking of other members of a land trust (for example), you have more chances to attract responsible, dependable people who are looking for a solid place to call home.  They are more likely to be capable, trustworthy adults who are comfortable with accountability. 

None of the above is my opinion, I got it all from Diana Leafe Christian and her lovely book "Creating a Life Together."  Can't plug that book often enough.  It's thrilling to me that she participates sometimes in this forum! 
 
paul wheaton
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I suppose there may be a lot of truth to that. 

And .... at the same time ...  there are examples to the contrary. 

I have not done any formal measuring, but it does seem like there are more examples of the contrary being successful. 

Hence my desire to open this thread of communication. 

And since I have talked about this very topic with Diana just a few months ago ...  she thinks that what I propose is something that could work for me - but not for her.

 
Travis Philp
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I've been living on a farm in the frame of an intentional community since September. There are 12 shareholders with various levels of involvement, 5 of us live on the land, two more will be once their house sells, and possibly 2 of the others will retire here. One couple is content to live about 3 minutes away, and others are about 6 hours away in Windsor.

Theoretically we operate on a consensus voting system, though some of the small stuff has to be dealt with too speedily for a vote (eg. deadlines for planning department bullcrap)

We do a lot of voting over email which can take a bit longer than I'd like but I don't like the prospect of living under someone elses rule. I get enough of that from government.

Of course we're only in the infant stages but I believe that we're going through the toughest chapter which is getting started and staying financially stable. And so far we are holding steady, though I will admit that sometimes the stress gets to some of us but its the money and not the group dynamic, as I see it.

I'll let you know how many of us are still around in 2 years...


 
Fred Morgan
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Definitely, having caretakers is like having children to a point. The key is clearly defining what I call "third rails", i.e. touch this and you are dead. Everyone has them if you have the power, and not everyone agrees.

You can call them non-negotiables if you prefer. Often, you can find them by seriously thinking about what makes you weird to others.

I do believe this is where most organizations break down, including marriage. We all have assumptions, and we think anyone right minded person would think the same as ourselves, so why do we need to explain them? And when we do, we tend to put it across as though you are a bad person if you don't think like us. 

I used to do premarriage counseling, and one thing I would do that would break this ice jam of assumptions was to have a list of chores around the house, and give it to each person. They then would, separately, say who should do what chore.  Made for some really interesting discussions afterward!

This may well help you discover if you think similarly.

One other thing, I have a phrase that I use here that I picked up from a friend who could barely speak Spanish at the time. "No escucha, no hay problema, no hay trabajo!" Translated, Don't listen, not a problem, you won't be working.

Communication is the key, but it is a two way street.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I've lived in a neighborhood with a semi-feudal power structure.

It was mostly OK. My roomate's stolen bike was returned to her the same day she brought the problem to the attention of the authorities. Feudal leaders are responsive, and are incredibly rich in personal connections.

Unfortunately, those local authorities were drug dealers, and mostly too young to value the long-term investment of keeping a village "eco."

That's a big part of the problem with feudalism: the turnover rate of regimes is fairly high, and often accomplished by violence, so that audacious thugs are too often in charge.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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On the topic of consensus vs. single-person vs. small group 'rule' I have this to offer.  While I haven't actually lived in an intentional community as such, I *have* spent my entire adult life as a member of various churches (I'm not a 'church-hopper', but we moved a lot).  Churches have some similarities to intentional communities -- and many intentional communities have arisen from the members of a church deciding to live together as well as to worship together. 

The churches I've attended have had one of three systems of leadership.  A few had what's called congregational rule, where the entire congregation voted on all decisions.  This sounds nice and democratic and all that, but in fact it led to a lot of hard feelings and division, because everyone has a slightly different opinion on everything, a different way of seeing things and of dealing with things, even in church, where you'd expect to find some degree of unity.

Some churches have pastor-rule, where the pastor makes all the decisions.  This has tended to not be very good, either, as some (most) pastors aren't as wise as they'd like to think they are.  Plus people tend to rebel against what they may see as one man playing God -- and unfortunately, some pastors DO try to play God with the lives of their parishioners. 

Some churches are 'elder-led' with the board of elders, including the pastor, making the decisions.  The congregation can make suggestions and have input, but the elders make the final decision.  The church I attend here is elder-led, and I have to say that I think this is the best way.  Nothing is going to totally eliminate all problems because human nature is what it is.  But here we don't have the avenue for huge factions to form in the congregation as they fight over how things should be done; neither do you have the avenue for one man to think himself like God over a group of people. 

If your 'elders' are carefully selected in the first place, looking for men of good character (or women -- in non-church communities I'll use the word 'men' generically to indicate humans), with some wisdom, common sense, and experience, and with similar goals, I think they would do a good job of keeping things on track, and of keeping each other from going off on tangents.  I think the main thing is to make sure that while the community is kept on track, individuals should be allowed as much freedom and responsibility as they can handle.  Very few of us like being told what to do all the time, but even so, some guidelines are good.  Freedom with boundaries is what we all need, at any age -- as you get older the boundaries should be able to expand.

Kathleen
 
Fred Morgan
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Kathleen, I think you might have something here. Having had extensive background in churches, it is my opinion there is few things more sinful than a men's business meeting. It probably is going to sound elitist but, if you have no experience in group settings arriving at compromise, you shouldn't be part of the process. Too often I have seen a good idea which most people wanted defeated because of a blowhard that wanted his way.

 
paul wheaton
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Let us suppose there are 10 churches right next door to each other.  Each pastor led.  You can then take your pick on which pastor is the best fit for you, right?

Each pastor needs to do what he/she thinks is right - and there is a chance that there might be no flock.  And it stands to reason that the pastor does not need to appeal to everybody, but to the 10% that is most aligned with his/her values.

And now, let's suppose there are 10,000 churches.  Then the pastor needs to appeal to the .01% that are most aligned with his/her values. 

Then the focus can be more about finding joy in life than anything about how bob and steve never seem to get along.

 
Emerson White
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paul wheaton wrote:
Let us suppose there are 10 churches right next door to each other.  Each pastor led.  You can then take your pick on which pastor is the best fit for you, right?

Each pastor needs to do what he/she thinks is right - and there is a chance that there might be no flock.  And it stands to reason that the pastor does not need to appeal to everybody, but to the 10% that is most aligned with his/her values.

And now, let's suppose there are 10,000 churches.  Then the pastor needs to appeal to the .01% that are most aligned with his/her values. 

Then the focus can be more about finding joy in life than anything about how bob and steve never seem to get along.




This equal share deal makes no sense to me.
 
Fred Morgan
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paul wheaton wrote:
Let us suppose there are 10 churches right next door to each other.  Each pastor led.  You can then take your pick on which pastor is the best fit for you, right?

Each pastor needs to do what he/she thinks is right - and there is a chance that there might be no flock.  And it stands to reason that the pastor does not need to appeal to everybody, but to the 10% that is most aligned with his/her values.

And now, let's suppose there are 10,000 churches.  Then the pastor needs to appeal to the .01% that are most aligned with his/her values. 

Then the focus can be more about finding joy in life than anything about how bob and steve never seem to get along.




The problem with you illustration is the spouse. Couples are not unified in their point of view, now what do you do? And the same will be true of any group who brings in couples. One may just be fine, and another the opposite of what you need. The problem is, often there is a dominant one, who will talk more, and because the other one is being quiet, you assume agreement. Everything blows up when the passive one can't take it anymore.

And to further complicate it - we all know opposites attract. You also need to have a good mix of points of view for a healthy organization.
 
paul wheaton
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The key is:  do these people fit?  If those people come into the house, are they better for it?  Do they like it?  Do the other folks in the house like it?  Do they like it better than the alternatives?

So, yes, there are all sorts of catywompus ups and downs and possibilities. 
 
Fred Morgan
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paul wheaton wrote:
The key is:  do these people fit?  If those people come into the house, are they better for it?  Do they like it?  Do the other folks in the house like it?   Do they like it better than the alternatives?

So, yes, there are all sorts of catywompus ups and downs and possibilities. 


I honestly could live in a tin shack and be happy, sometimes I think happier.  When I look at people to team up with, I am looking for grateful people. Not necessarily grateful to me, but grateful to someone or something. People who figure they have never had a break, never gotten their due, etc are almost certainly going to be a problem.

I often like to reflect on how much better my life has turned out than I ever expected. It makes the daily irritations so much easier to take.

 
                          
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I'm interested in the concept of leader as "parent", mentioned above. 

As a parent, I've always seen my role as helping a child fulfill their growth potential.  I do not wipe my children's noses for very long when they're old enough to do it themselves.  Sometimes I am frustrated by their inability to see wisdom which is obvious to me, and sometimes I'm shocked at the poor quality of their choices or actions, but at least I'm comforted to know they do respect me as their rulemaker and arbiter.  When I say things need fixing, they fix them.  Sometimes the fix includes me showing them the right thing to do, and sometimes I challenge them to find appropriate solutions on their own (always reserving veto power, of course).

I've often thought that might not be a bad model for at least some people's needs in an intentional community.  Someday it might be great to be able to open a teaching farm where people can learn many different life skills, as well as permaculture farming.  Some at-risk youth might especially benefit from such a structured environment.  It would be wonderful to help teens find self-reliance, confidence, connection, and both interpersonal and practical skills which could strengthen their ability to meet challenges either on their own sustainable farm or in other life pursuits.

Maybe it's just a dream.  But it's a good one.
 
            
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CrunchyBread wrote:

Maybe it's just a dream.  But it's a good one.


Some may indeed say you're a dreamer.. but you're not the only one.
 
Scott Howard
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I love reading this one because it gets into the nitty gritty of the issue: people.

I recently posted around that I am interested in building a house for someone and living in it for 5 years.  They pay for everything and keep the building in the end. 

This idea I had really reminds me of what Paul described. And BTW, I really appreciate what you are saying, Paul, because I have had the exact same experience (only I didn't visit that many IC's).  I would participate on someone else's land for 5 years, and might at that time either move on, or go into what is known as a life lease, where you can lease the land for life.  I like these options better than saving or owing a fortune to buy some land that will probably be farther from the hubs than I'd like.

Cheers,
 
George Lafayette
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paul wheaton wrote:
In 2005 I visited gobs of official IC's, poured through ic.org and other web sites, read Diana Leafe Christian's book and took two IC workshops (one from Diana and one from Robena McCurdy).  I interviewed dozens of people that were currently living in community with a strong focus on those that were leaving community. 

My analysis is two basic parts:

1)  Nearly everybody is sure that they can get consensus to work, but the downsides of consensus often turns out to be bigger than the upsides of community living.  But the advocates of consensus appear to be in a perpetual state of tweaking their system to mitigate these downsides (and, despite incredible pain from their systems, insist that it WILL work!).  I suspect that there are examples of systems that work, but I also suspect that those systems are pretty fragile.   Generally, a high rate of rejecting the founder.


well, we are not a farm, but we are an IC and have been using a type of consensus decision making that has been working for us for almost 43 years now - its called "the one no vote "http://www.lafayettemorehouse.com/one_no-vote.html - and its goal is not about voting but about communicating and reaching agreement through communication. As far as I know we haven't tinkered with it since the beginning - its one of the fundamental principles of our group. 

As everyone knows, the big downside of living with people is the people. Of course the big upside of living with people is .... the people.





 
Lee Einer
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The feudal model is a topic of occasional discussion amongst those mulling the post-apocalyptic world.

Those I have known who seemed attracted to a feudal model tended to imagine themselves as the benign feudal lord rather than the subservient serf.

What role do you imagine yourself occupying in a feudal system?

If your role was stipulated from the onset as being that of the subservient serf who is entirely dependent on the good will of the feudal lord, would you be comfortable with that?
 
Lee Einer
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I attended one of Diana Leaf Christian's workshops several years ago, and one of the things I took away from it is that an intentional community often will sink or swim to the degree that the purpose of the community and the rules of the community have been clearly formulated, agreed upon, reduced to writing.

This is one of the prerequisites for a smoother consensus process, because you no longer have to debate each idea as if it were in a vacuum; If the proposal is outside the declared purpose of the community or in violation of its rules, it's a non-starter, no further debate needed. Doesn't mean your idea is a bad one, just that it is outside the community's principles of unity and not something the community needs to come together around.

There are a couple of other rules that simplify consensus.

1). The proposal should get only the attention which it merits. If your talking about the color of the placemats in the dining area, and it's an hour long discussion,it's time to get priorities right.

2). Proposals have stakeholders. And those stakeholders are those, generally, who will be the ones getting sweaty implementing the proposal, as well as those immediately and meaningfully impacted by the results. If you belong to neither of these groups, dummy up unless you simply have a helpful suggestion as to how the stakeholders can implement their decision.
 
                          
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LasVegasLee wrote:
If your role was stipulated from the onset as being that of the subservient serf who is entirely dependent on the good will of the feudal lord, would you be comfortable with that?


I, for one, have thought at many times that it would be nice to have a benign lord who would care for me and handle important decisions wisely and lead responsibly.  Of course, that assumes the lord actually posesses those qualities of caring, wisdom, and responsibility.  I'm sure there is something there of a wish that I could have trusted my own parents to be more apt in those areas.

The trouble as I see it is that some people (parents) have authority without having to justify their fitness for the position.  Then people (children) are forced to put up with whatever system of values or ethics they are handed.  One benefit I see of an IC quasi-neofeudal system is that those who join will hypothetically be adults capable of judging and/or leaving if the leader isn't worth following, or mishandles the position.

We've come a long way since the days when people were seen as property.  I believe it was the "being owned and not being able to get away or change/improve your position" aspect of being a serf that was so objectionable, not the idea that one need not necessarily control ALL aspects of one's own life.  (As if any of us really do.)
 
hannah johns
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LasVegasLee wrote:
The feudal model is a topic of occasional discussion amongst those mulling the post-apocalyptic world.

Those I have known who seemed attracted to a feudal model tended to imagine themselves as the benign feudal lord rather than the subservient serf.

What role do you imagine yourself occupying in a feudal system?

If your role was stipulated from the onset as being that of the subservient serf who is entirely dependent on the good will of the feudal lord, would you be comfortable with that?


reminds me of people's tales of past lives, they are always cleopatra, never the handservant.
 
Tyler Ludens
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This famous scene reflects upon some of the pros and cons of different community arrangements:

 
hannah johns
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
This famous scene reflects upon some of the pros and cons of different community arrangements:




thanks, i love that movie and that scene!  strange women lying in ponds distributing swords!
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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That was AWESOME - Gotta love Monty
 
Brice Moss
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I rather fancy myself as the stout Yeoman type, but could rather deal with being a serf in a Scottish or English kind of feudalism, don't much care for the French or Russian versions of feudalism though
 
Tyler Ludens
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Being a Yeoman is all fun and games until there's a war. 
 
Brice Moss
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who wants to live forever?
 
Suzy Bean
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Paul talks about "modern fiefdoms" in his podcast on intentional community: http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/310-podcast-037-intentional-community/
 
William James
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Fred Morgan wrote:
As I explain to new hires, those who have plenty often got that way because they value what they have.


Hi Fred,
I don't want to start a fight or anything, but as someone who values what they have and still does not have plenty, I'd like you to know that I am not okay with your statement.

As I see the parents of my peers buy them houses and start-up businesses, and as I watch my very rich employer consciously or unconsciously waste anything he can get his hands on, I can assure you that valuing what you have does not play as big a role as you might think. There are other factors involved in how privilege is transmitted in this society.

If your point is to say that you're not going to let some jack-ass take away what you've worked hard to achieve, fine. \
Perhaps there's a better way to put it.

just something to think about.
I imagine your new hires wouldn't call you on it, but I will. 

all the best,
wmthake
 
paul wheaton
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wmthake wrote:
I don't want to start a fight or anything, but


An excellent example of the word "but" negating what was just said. 


 
William James
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Moving on...
Paul, you should check out Collapse by Jarad Diamond. He describes exactly what you're talking about. I think it was from an island in polynesia.

The dictator, half jokingly referred to as "big man" of the village worked as hard as everyone else, didn't have very many, or any, special privileges, and was basically there to give the final word on things. He had an incentive to make a decision that would be okay for most people because he was kinda like the vent for people's rage when things went wrong. Then I suspect things blew over and village life moved on as before.

Anyway, check it out. I'm remembering all this from an audio book, so I don't have any page numbers, or I'd have done the research for you.

The only problem I see is that the dictator has to be a really cool (sometimes a tall order, in my opinion) and undemanding, and someone who trusts people to do what they can to solve problems. And when it's blatantly obvious that the person is either untrustworthy or not doing what they can, fire them.

I'm currently working for a fiefdom that doesn't work quite so well. The boss and his son are both assholes who spend most of their time going around and barking orders. The workers work 7 days a week 7:30-5:30. They hate the boss and his son. All autonomy is squelched, even though the workers are well-rounded and experienced. Well...I could go on. Suffice it to say it sucks if the boss doesn't even care to create something where people might want to stick around.

best,
wm
 
paul wheaton
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William wrote:
I'm currently working for a fiefdom that doesn't work quite so well. The boss and his son are both assholes who spend most of their time going around and barking orders. The workers work 7 days a week 7:30-5:30. They hate the boss and his son. All autonomy is squelched, even though the workers are well-rounded and experienced. Well...I could go on. Suffice it to say it sucks if the boss doesn't even care to create something where people might want to stick around.


This is the part that I wanna talk about.  70 hours a week.  And what do you get for that?

I think the important part is that when you have a community you lay it down as a collection of choices.  The tiny room is $300 per month.  The big room is $500 per month.  The suite/cabin is $900 per month.  If you share a big room with two others, then it is $250 per month each.  Then there is compensation for your hours.  If you don't feel like doing the hours, that's fine.  As long as you pay your rent.  If the rent seems too high, move out.  If the pay for the work seems too low, get a different job.  If the work you do is lame, then that work is given to somebody else.

An asshole is somebody who has a value set that is different from yours.  I have worked for a lot of different assholes over the years - and I know that there were some people that thought those assholes were not assholes, but really cool people.  I've also worked for some people that were awesome and other people thought they were assholes.  And there were lots of times when I was the guy in charge, and some people thought I was an asshole while at the same time other people thought I was cool. 



 
William James
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paul wheaton wrote:
This is the part that I wanna talk about.  70 hours a week.  And what do you get for that?

They talked something in the neighborhood of 1,500 euros per month. So like 2,200 a month/x12/26K a year.

As for me, I get  6 euros an hour, maybe 80-90 a week in the end for what little I do there (16 hrs).


I think the important part is that when you have a community you lay it down as a collection of choices.

From what you said, it seems like people have a good number of ways to modify their experience and they accept the responsibility for those choices. Sounds like a way toward having people get what they want.


An asshole is somebody who has a value set that is different from yours.


I don't know.
I'd say
>$Asshole != function($Asshole+$Boss)

To explain, if you're just an ass, okay, we can have different values and I'm okay, you're okay. Once you exert control over me a whole series of yucky things pop up that complicate things.

There is also the fact that oppressive relationships are so normalized that sometimes people who are getting their ass handed to them will often side with the boss against their better interest. This may or may not involve believing the person is "cool" or otherwise well-intentioned. In fact it may involve remaining loyal to a person you think is an asshole, which I believe is the case of the people I work with.
 
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