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everybody seems to be lovely until ...  RSS feed

 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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... the shit hits the fan.

In 2011 I recorded podcast 071 called "being noble."   And shortly after that, makeitmissoula asked me to massage that into a blog for their site

In that article, I state:

Everybody looks cool when the situation is consistently smooth. When things become horribly awkward, we then see 5% stand up and work hard on getting things to be smooth again, while 95% …. uh …. do something else.


Usually make it worse.


The world has problems.  I believe that the solution to most of those problems is permaculture and homesteading.  It seems really clear and obvious to me.   I think a lot of people believe that.  I think that by now most of the people on the planet would think that.   But why have most of the people on the planet never even heard of it?  Why is it that "permaculture" is not a household word?  It seems that permaculture gained a lot of acceptance and then it's growth has been seriously limited.   In my 2014 Keynote at Permaculture Voices I point out the many issues, but I think the most important issue is the infighting.  People within the greater permaculture community get a very strict idea of what they think permaculture is.  They love permaculture so much and are so passionate about the way all the bits and bobs fit into their head, that they are very insistent that all other people must adhere to that very strict idea or "THAT'S NOT PERMACULTURE!"  - the open hostility shown to permies by other permies is nausiatingly bizarre.  At the end of my keynote I asked the audience to repeat this simple phrase:

There are many schools of thought under the permaculture umbrella.



Every day this struggle continues. 


More from the article:

In the podcast, I start off relating a story about a woman that wrote a weekly column for the daily paper in Portland, Oregon. The column was about her attempts to become greener. One of her earliest columns was about how she went out and bought a bunch of fluorescent light bulbs. A year later, she wrote a column about how she learned that fluorescent light bulbs are an example of “green washing” and turn out to be not very green at all.

I find this to be a pretty common path. When folks get started on the eco path, they buy in to the fluorescent light bulb thing. After all, it says “eco” right on the package. And they have heard about how good it is from many sources. And then when people get a lot further down the eco path, about 1 in 100 decide that fluorescent light bulbs are awful, and then they eliminate all fluorescent light bulbs from their house.

The noteworthy thing about the columnist is that she received a mountain of ugly, hostile hate mail including death threats. The message was that these people felt that in the name of “green and eco” that advocating anything other than fluorescent light bulbs is unacceptable.

So while the “green and eco” group is usually known for peace, love, flowers, rainbows, and hugs, it seems there are at least a few that are painfully hostile. The columnist feared for the well-being of herself and her family, so she quit the column.



That same bit about the writer was the foundation of the two observations of the wheaton eco scale:







There is a bit of comedy with the idea of teenagers.  Specifically at about the age of 15.   There is an enormous amount of drama and the teenager is confident that they know everything.  Of course, this is not entirely true, but there is a lot of truth to it.   I suspect that the enormous amount of drama is rooted in the teenager beginning to get a grip on how the world works.  And it is not pretty.   And the teenager has figured out a strategy that is "the way" for them.  Since nobody else has "the way", then all other people are, effectively, dopes.  It will take a few more years to learn that there are many possible paths, and a bit of humility starts to sink in. 

Maybe this is how things are in permaculture.   People learn enough to get to a point where they can see all the pieces fitting together.  They then discover "the way" for themselves.   And they then wish to guide others toward this path "to help them." but they are so adamant about there being exactly one path, that the phrase "THAT'S NOT PERMACULTURE!" escapes their lips many times.    And it will take many years until that "permaculture teenager" has grown enough to allow "many schools of thought under the permaculture umbrella."  Can we call this last stage a "mature permie?"

If we expand on this idea just a bit further, for each "mature permie" there must be about 500 "teenage permies".   And for each teenager, there might be 500 "newbie permies."  And, at the same time, all of these people are actually adults.    So it would be fair to say that there could be a gathering where "mature permies" could be easily outnumbered by "teenage permies."  

The "teenage permies" send a dissuasive message to the "newbie permies" and a lot of the newbies decide to drop permaculture as "too hostile - I don't need this shit."   And we also start to have our "mature permies" go silent for the exact same reason.     Even some of the "teenage permies" get sick of it and bail. 

And the whole permaculture movement stagnates.


---


The first step in solving a problem is to figure out what the problem is.  Human nature is a thousand times more complex than the "teen permie theory" (TPT).  But maybe if we try to solve TPT then it might just happen to solve a few other things along the way.  Maybe we can make progress even though we don't have the ability to fully understand human psychology.

The problem is rooted in the phrase "THAT'S NOT PERMACULTURE!" and variations of that.  What happens if in all conversations about permaculture, we eliminate this phrase and the variations?  Would things improve?

There are thousands of places all over the internet where a person can talk about permaculture.  And there are at least as many outside of the internet.  For this site, permies.com, we have taken this stance of limiting what is allowed to be talked about and how things are discussed.  Effectively eliminating the phrases we are concerned about.   The goal is that all permies can talk about all permaculture topics and the hostile stuff is removed.  Mysteriously, the site grew and grew ... and eventually became quite massive.  Oh my.  Is it possible that this path has validated the "teen permie theory"?


---


A few months ago I announced a silly thing -  "all of human history and 90% of human psychology fits into one sentence":

Most people NEED to hear their own opinion from all other people and are frustrated that they don't have the might to make it "right."


And it got a response from a psychologist:

I absolutely agree with that statement.  I'd even add to it:  "...and are frustrated that they don't have the might to make it 'right', so instead they transform the problems unique to their brain into everybody else's problems.."

This is pretty much the root-cause analysis of social dysfunction.


This is all people everywhere, not just within the world of permaculture. 

Of course, a big part of permaculture is to try to build community.  Including intentional community - and the myriad of challenges in that space.  So this bit of psychology is going to tested 10 times more than regular society.   Maybe 200 times more in intentional community.   But the advantages of intentional community are huge.  Surely there are ways to solve this problem.


---

My friend Diana Leafe Christian told me about some of the consensus based process at earthaven.  And she talks about it a little in this thread.

While there is five volume book set (never written) to go over all the ups and downs of their experiences, I wish to focus on a small point that happened for a few years:  basically, somebody very loud and hostile would set the direction for the community.   The other community members desperately wanted peace and loveliness and just giving the hostile people what they wanted was the fastest, simplest, quietest path.  And in time, these awful decisions piled up and ...  the community learned that they would have more peace and loveliness if they would take the more difficult path in the short term.  They evicted the hostility. 

Why would anybody be so awful and hostile?  the answer is everywhere:   it works.   It works extremely well.   Our society basically trains people that if they are hostile enough, they can have pretty much anything they want - up to a point. 

From my permaculture velocity thread:

I shared a link to reddit where a permaculture enthusiast replied to a comment about winning a ticket to voices and said "I'm gonna win then I'm going to go a punch Paul Wheaton in the face." I wish to emphasize that this was a person who spends lots of time in the permaculture subreddit - so I think it is fair to say that this person is supposedly a permaculture enthusiast. And checking that person's contributions to reddit you see this:



I suppose we could say that there are thousands of communities and we would rather not have this person in our community.  But this person would do great in some other community?


----

The benefits of community are massive.  Maybe you can bring together a group of people and things will be lovely.  It is even possible that everything between everybody will seem lovely for years.  And then one day, something takes an awkward turn and it will be in the nature of 95% of people to make that situation worse - each of those people will make it worse in their own way. 

In my podcast, I suggested that the people of the 5% could be labeled as "noble" and the people of the 95% could be labeled as "human."

Nearly all community designs assume that all members of the community will be noble.  This makes for a very fragile community.   When there is a bump in the road, everybody discovers that 95% of the community is human.  The community fails.

Community must be designed to continue through those tests.  Maybe with each test, many of the humans will move on.   As new people come and go, the percentage of noble people might eventually grow to be the majority.   And THAT is a very lovely community.










 
David Livingston
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I remember reading a classic SF novel - the Forever war I think it was in which the war was only finished when human kind was effectively all or at least 99% clones. Ie all the same
That's the big issue as I see it how to cope with everyone being different and then having a structure that can cope with that and accepting that without having a strict regime subjugating indeviduality before a "higher cause" like the army or religious order.
But why plans for such a community deliberately , will not such a community naturally evolve if you have enough people interested in Permaculture ? Who live in one area . I see the transition movement starting to have that effect in attracting people to certain villages because of this . Is not evolution a more natural process?
 
Chris Barrows
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I remember watching a BBC documentary a few years ago about a tribe in Africa.

The community was close-knit, with the exception of one family who lived on the outskirts.

The family on the outskirts had health problems (mostly respiratory based), but we're not ostracized.

As it turned out, that family was the one who processed iron from ore for the village.

The processing was hard, loud, hot and smelly to say the least, but the community needed the metal and the family needed the community.

*******

In my limited Permaculture experience, many sacrafice  the good in the hopes for the perfect, as if "perfect" is ever actually attainable.

I once had a man tell me that ONLY organ diatomaceous  earth could be used in permaculture.

In a "perfect" world, that would be nice.

In reality, I'm 8 miles from a limestone quarry with lots of diatomaceous earth and at dollars per ton vs dollars per bag, I'll take that bet.

*******
Nothing will ever be 100% permies, but I'll take my 50% on my way to 95%


 
Chris Barrows
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Concerning my DE:

Our local quarry occasionally comes across some thin layers while graveling. What I get is nowhere near food grade.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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David Livingston wrote: will not such a community naturally evolve if you have enough people interested in Permaculture ?


In this thread   I talk about being in a lovely community made entirely of people that had completed a PDC.   Things were quite smooth, until ...   take a look at my second post in that thread. 

I remember there was one guy, who had completed a PDC, moved in.   His rent was something like $460 per month.   Once he was moved in he told me that his rent was now reduced to $200 per month - that was just all he was going to pay.  So I got a piece of paper and gave him his 30 days notice.



There were some really lovely people and there were some icky people.  Having completed a PDC does not guarantee that a person is lovely. 



From the same community:  a person was paying about $410 per month in rent.  He came to me and made a big deal that he was paying too much.  He wanted to know exactly what the rent for the house was because he thought he was getting screwed.   I made him an offer:   I will open my house books to you, and if your math shows that you were screwed, then I will pay that money to you.   If, on the other hand, the books show that I paid more than my fair share, then he would pay that amount to me.   He was wise to not take me up on the offer, because the house owed me about $4000, and the current rent was about $20 per month more than what I paid to rent the whole house.  So if we don't have any empty rooms ever again, I would get paid back in about 200 months.

He proceeded to lecture me on how his rent should never go up if there is an empty room and at the same time, all of the room rents should add up to exactly the cost to rent the house.  I invited him to rent a large house and rent out the rooms and do exactly what he was suggesting.  I doubt he ever did.





 
William Bronson
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When the shit just the fan 5% of people do something I think might help. The rest might think it's a good thing, might think it's a non event ,might blame the fan,the shit,the shit thrower,those sprayed by the shit, an excess of fiber, the power that turned the fan....

Dissolution of a marriage,an election, a pregnancy,these could all be shit hitting the fan,or they could be something else entirely, depending on one's perspective.

Permies often say "it depends". A change of perspective might change mint from a weed to a crop.
Or not.

My problem at my house is not enough food growing,and  THREE city agencies trying to use fines to make me conform to the norm.
Looking at it from their point if view, I'm harboring pests,pissing of my neighbors and bring down property values.

Hey, natural landscapesoffer food and shelter for animals,mice included,my neighbors are entitled to their opinions of what they want to look at,and neatly trimmed grass lawns are what buyers want to see.

Their solution(fines) became my problem(fines), just as my solution to financial insecurity( all food plants,all over the place) was a host of problems to them.


Who is in what 5 percent? What is the shit,and what fan does it hit?

Being a socialist of sorts,a person who believes in the benefits of living within this society, I am taking a stand....for co-operation.

Long "grass" is being replaced by terraced garden beds.

Ancillary structures to house pets (chicken coop)must be 20 feet from every property line,and my proprty is only 30 feet wide?
Chickshaw to the rescue!

Piles of lumber a no-no? Build something out of it!
Again, I see a chickshaw in my near future,and an empty coop waiting to become a storage shed.

So far my accommodating attitude has won me extra time to "conform"and the personal sympathies of the regulators.
Oh, it's made my wife happy as well.
I chaff at the requirements,but I also thrive under them.

95% of humans have different priorities than you do.
Find out where you can make common cause with them and you will be a long way towards getting the shit off of your fan,and theirs,and into a nice compost pile.

I don't think having different priorities necessarily  makes them,or me, more or less noble. Just human.

 
David Livingston
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Maybe its a scale thing as I think about successful community's built around work in the UK we are talking about villages with a couple of hundred people in them eg Quaking houses , Newcastleton, Salthill etc you seem to be talking about one house  ( or enough people to fill one house ).

David
 
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