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Why Wheaton Labs needs Fraternity Brothers and Sorority Sisters  RSS feed

 
Francisco Gonzalez
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Paul Wheaton said that his podcast about community located here:

http://www.richsoil.com/permaculture/78049-317-wheaton-laboratory-update-part-1/

may be the most important podcast of all time. I agree.

The methods for using permaculture to care for the land are well known by a lot of people, but most intentional communities still don't work.

In this podcast, Paul mentioned what I will call the dishtowel problem where his long term house guests would keep
using dishtowels as rags and ruin them. This drove Paul nuts and I can understand why.

But the dishtowel problem and a thousand others like it are solved every day by fraternities and sororities across America.

No one hears about fraternities being dissolved because people couldn't get along. People living in fraternities usually do get along and they are usually very happy with fraternity life.

So what do fraternities and sororities know about community living that Paul doesn't? Primarily it's two things.

1. They know that to make artificial families (like communities) stick together you have to have a difficult and uncomfortable initiation. It won't work without it, sorry.

2. They also know how to deal with people who continue to break the rules after being reminded. They do this by having an enforcer whose job it is to deal with these people and he does it gently but firmly.

One time someone was not following the rules at his fraternity, so the enforcer disassembled the rule breakers heavy wooden bed and moved it to the attic. The interaction went something like this.

Rule Breaker: "Where's my bed?"

Enforcer: "I moved it to the attic."

Rule Breaker: "Why?"

Enforcer: "To remind you that we have a rule about using dish towels only to dry dishes, not as rags."

Rule Breaker: "Will you help me move my bed back to my room?"

Enforcer: "No, you can either sleep in the attic, or move it back to your room by yourself."


I think that Paul should invite 3 senior fraternity brothers and 3 senior sorority sisters for a week or two to wheaton labs to teach him how to run safe and effective initiations and how to have an enforcer who gently and effectively brings people back into line.

Naturally Paul should find people who are interested in Permaculture, but that should be easy.

I guarantee you that the senior fraternity brothers and sorority sisters will be good house guests, because they have had a lot of practice with effective community living and they know how to follow the house rules.
 
Zach Muller
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Only issue then would be Wheaton labs having to stock up on hair gel, polo shirts, and spray tan.


Lol kidding. Not meant to insult the fine brothers and sisters i have had contact with in the past, just a funny image.
 
Francisco Gonzalez
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Don't worry, they will bring their own spray tan and hair gel, but I bet you are right that they would want a Permies.com polo shirt.

Smile
 
Davin Hoyt
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"I like to think that" the podcast minimum listens (200 count) serves as an initiation.
 
Rose Pinder
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Davin Hoyt wrote:"I like to think that" the podcast minimum listens (200 count) serves as an initiation.


Very good.

"but most intentional communities still don't work."

Francisco, I know this gets said a lot, but do we know if this is true, or how do we know? And are we talking about failure once up and running, or failure to get up and running?

I'm not in the US so my knowledge about sororities and fraternities comes from movies and tv, but aren't they distinctly different from intentional communities in that they are based on all residents passing through? ie no permanence.

I do think there is fun to be had coming up with intitiation and compliance scenarios for Wheaton Labs >
 
Francisco Gonzalez
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Davin, I don't think that listening to any podcast even 200 times would be enough. But maybe writing the key points down by hand 200 times would be a part of a good initiation.

Rose, the most heartbreaking failures of intentional communities are the ones that do get up and running then fall apart in fighting in a couple of years.

Fraternities and sororities never fall apart in fighting. Sometimes someone leaves, but they are quickly replaced.

People typically live in a fraternity or sorority for one to four years, which is enough time to make life long friends and be a lot more permanent than some intentional communities.

Fraternities never fall apart because of someone wiping up the floor with dish towels. If you wipe the floor with a dish towel once at a fraternity, you will be told. If you do it twice you will be told more firmly and if you do it three times, the person whose job it is to assure compliance with rules for group living will gently but firmly make your life intolerable until you remember.

The military uses basic training (which is a difficult imitation) to make a group of strangers feel like a band of brothers. Wheaton labs needs to do something like that.

Paul Wheaton knows at a deep gut level, that humans are supposed to live in communities. He's right of course.

What he doesn't yet know is what the fraternities and sororities know which is how to make strangers feel like brothers and sisters and get along with each other.

I do think there is fun to be had coming up with intitiation and compliance scenarios for Wheaton Labs >

Yes, initiation and compliance can be a lot of fun, but it can't be practical. It has to be something that the initiates do voluntarily and that is impractical and difficult. Something like whitewashing a fence with a toothbrush comes to mind.

Note that fraternities never use their charity activities as initiations.
 
Rose Pinder
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My comment stands - fraternities aren't ongoing communities, the people in them change over time right, that's the basic structure of them? The intentional communities I know of don't have that kind of turnover, there is always some kind of continuity, and the intention isn't a one to four year rotation. I think maybe you are describing something more like short to medium term cohousing rather than intentional community.

It's hard to imagine an army boot camp style of behaviour enforcement working in an intentional community. I'd be interested to know of any working examples. It's interesting to consider though, what is it that modern people need to learn in order to live together, and how can that learning happen?


"In this podcast, Paul mentioned what I will call the dishtowel problem where his long term house guests would keep
using dishtowels as rags and ruin them. This drove Paul nuts and I can understand why."

I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but on the face of it that sounds like a design problem as much as a behavioural rectification one.
 
Zach Muller
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In my observation the Greek system doesn't fall apart because of the influx of money and the paid "house moms". In every house I have been in there were hired hands to clean house, keep kitchen stocked and running, and the bills of the house were paid by mandatory member payments. Very little responsibility was placed in the members as their main function is to party and drink aka fraternize.
I think the Greek system can create associations that do endure for the rest of a members life, but i have not really seen them create a community of living folks like intentional communities and like wheaton labs.
 
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