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  • Mon, Dec 15, 2008 - 09:57pm



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i have been hearing the term community tossed around here ad infinitum. i think it would be a fruitful thread to dialog about what exactly a community is, who is in one and what are the purposes.

i have been involved with community all my adult life starting in the 70’s with communes.  i have found it incredibly difficult to assemble any kind of sustainable community. most long term communities in my experience have somthing that binds them together such as a religion or a charismatic leader.

i am guessing that due to the nature of the internet that it would be even harder to establish a sustainable community.

in 1995 i took part in a 9 month community building program. it was called the " learning commmunity"

it was an amazing experience to say the least. we started with about 50 people and finished with about 38. it was broken into 4 parts,  self , self in relation to others, self in relation to environment and leading inspired lives. time and space does not allow me to do anymore than scratch the surface. 

our primary tool was dialog. this is a magical process which expands the ability for communication.

we explored scott pecks theories on community which to this day i find useful. 

in light of recent events on this site  i think it may be helpful to go over the 4 stages of community in his system

1-psuedo community—this is the first stage of community and is probably the most common. in this stage we interact with one another in polite but albeit superficial  ways. this is ok for dealing with acquaintances and store clerks and for business in general.

2. chaos. in relationships which tend to be longer term there comes a time when friction arises. this is chaos. (imho this is what occurred with all the babble about identity). this is a very useful state if recognized for what it is. it tends to bring hidden agendas to the surface. it also brings long standing resentments up. it is very often emotional. this is not a bad thing as emotions are real they do not lie. just look at a little kids face. you know exactly how he feels. no one except emotionally ill people like to stay in chaos for very long. but because of the emotional charge it can sometimes go on for quite sometime. it is also characterized by participants digging in their heels and justifying positions. the need to be right is very strong. it is in this stage where you see the emergence of peacemakers, this can be a "stuck" place

3.  this stage participants have reached a stage similar to exhaustion, chaos has proven to not be fruitful to resolving issues, acrimony and resentment has created a sense of separation and a sense of futility. this is a stage of surrender when participants flat out give up. at this stage participants start to look for other options."i dont know"

4. "true community" at this stage (peck does not know how it happens ) but the participants move into true community. there is no sense of conflict. participants are in alignment on all the issues .it is at this point community becomes its most effective and dynamic.

in my own experience  true community can only exist where all participants feel safe, are allowed to be vulnerable, are open and honest ie . no hidden agendas. all are valuable

this is a great place to be as many things can be accomplished. it is also a dangerous place because it is very easy to slip back into psuedo community. this is an entirely dynamic and not necessarily linear process. stasis leads to death.

in light of the identity crisis here i found that we moved into chaos around the issue of safety. the inability to recognize a participants genuine concerns plunged the"community" further into chaos. that is people took stands. dug in their heels and were ruled by emotions. this was a healthy process as it created an opportunity to bring long held agendas to the suface for examination. the move out of chaos started happening rather quickly. the exchange between switters and hewittr was one positive outcome to the process.

if we achieve true community  we will be an effective force for change in the world.

in true community we will be able to formulate clear goals which will allow the development of an effective action plan.

as for behavior on this site i think chris has oullined his rules for the site. this is his perogative…..hey it is his site. in other words hey man it is his house. do not write with crayons on the walls pick up after yosef and be polite.

personally i am opposed to rules  in general . however i understand that they sometimes are necessary. i find them to be hierarchal and disempowering. i prefer agreements which entails a sense of responsibilty not imposed from above but which comes from our own personal integrity and empower the individualando this site the "community." i acknowledge that this is a forum. for students of ancient rome you know the forum was a noisy boisterous  kind of place. in general the internet is just that. if we are empowered by the idea that this is not only chris’s forum but ours as well we can raise the level of dialog.

as for dialog i will give a little description which might prove helpful for posters here (this is a readers digest version of an outline. for an in depth treatment i would recommend dialog by bill issacs)

three basic conditions for dialog

1 all participants must suspend their assumptions, including a willingness to expose to the group what those assumptiuons are .

2.all participants must regard one another as colleagues. this calls for the development of group qualities like "being for each other " in a supportive way and "listening generously" by looking for the positive contributionthe speaker is attempting to make.

3.( this is mainly for in person dialog groups but i think can be applied in a number of ways to dialog in a forum. by the moderator, the poster of the thread, as many threads go off topic in tangents. and by the group itself)

there must be a facilitator who "holds the context" of the dialog.

i would add that it is helpful to be brief and succinct

as an update on my own community work with the crash course, we had our first meeting to discuss solutions and immediately went into chaos. we had twelve people and all but two had watched the  course. one of those dominated the meeting with a very high level of anxiety. we did accomplish a few things one of which is the development of a gift and needs list. we are establishing a data base with the quakers and the unitarians. i think this is a useful organizing strategy…using churches that is …………..hey it worked for bush.

the needs for us tended to be focused mostly around food and community gardens. so the next meeting those will be our topics.

one word about our chaos. we were a group of strangers only three of whom had done dialog and this was our first meeting and it was mainly an organizational meeting. one of our members is in contact with paul glover and we are trying to raise the money for him to come and help us establish our own local currency .

i hope that there is some use in some of these concepts.



  • Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - 12:17am


    Aaron M

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    Re: COMMUNITY?????????

Joe,Interesting read, thanks for sharing.
The thing that stands out to me about the ideals behind “community” is that community exsisted in very much the same form that we’re trying to structure now in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

I believe the “key ingredient” is necessity.
These days, it’s absolutely unecessary to have any sort of community bonds or ties. Yes, some still hold those values and still participate, but services, by in large, are not provided by people you typically know by first name.

Communes tried to re-establish this, as did communism, and they failed for the same reasons.

They lacked necessity, and they were tied to an ethos, which by its very nature encourages ideals that are counter-intuitive.

If we want to be successful, community must be predicated on a few elements:
1. Individual Liberty
2. Education and Civics
3. Co-Dependancy
4. Respect

Without liberty, mutany is inevitable. There will always be people who are “content” with this, but I think they’re a small portion of the overall population. Grumbling majorities comprise most of our nation today – thanks to ideaological partisanship. This arises much quicker in smaller groups, but we can see the over-reaction on a national level. Skin heads planning to shoot Obama, and miscreants firebombing Palin’s Church. Honestly, I can’t see the rationale behind EITHER of those acts.

Without Education, necessary skills and civic understanding diminish and people are uninterested and/or unable to provide for the community, and in many cases, themselves.

Co-Dependancy. Without each member contributing something different and valuable, the community will stagnate and not offer opportunities. This is something we can all devote some time to in preparation. Skills which we can lend to a community. Whether it’s proficiency in carpentry, making wine, skill at arms, working leather, wood or metal, engineering or power production, we should all be building knowledge and skill.

And finally – respect. Communities these days allow for a sense of self-inflation. We have lost that humble essence of old America that made us great. Ethics and respect are a mirror by which you can gauge a society, we should all encourage respect, and use our example as a lead for others to follow.

It’s easy to be angry or aggressive, but patience and respect require discipline.

Humans are like electricity. They take the path of least resistance unless guided, or educated.
Not everyone will allow themselves to be educated, and lets face it – not everyone takes to it.
In order to aid our communities, we have to develope skills and cultivate respect.

I believe the “necessity” part is “on deck”.
The world will be much smaller if we collapse.



  • Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - 02:19am



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    Re: COMMUNITY?????????

hi aaron

thanks for the reply. first this is just the barest of the barest of what peck had to say.

as far as the reasons for the establishment of community  he identifies two scenarios

one the one you are talking about ……..out of necessity. i assume you live in a city. i say this because if you lived in a rural area i dont think you would say " it is unnecessary to have any sort of bonds or ties. if you have not lived it you probably would not know

the other is freely created by a group to serve their collective needs 

necessity might be the community that forms when the building catches on fire 

we all work together in community to put it out. once the purpose is accomplished th eneed fo rth egroup evaporates.

at that point they can agree to remain in community and be a fire department.

the second is created voluntarily.. a matter of choice. it does not have to mean we live together. as many consider this site a community. which is why i posted this. in this way you could say the uaw is a community.

i dont see all the elements you enumerated.

liberty ? some of the most successful communities are religious communities where i think most would say there is a limit on personal liberty. if you travel to other parts of the world where you find islamic sufi communities or buddhist monasteries you will see the same thing. you will see a great deal of community in the developing world as many live in small villages. i think freedom to choose to be in a community is the liberty you are talking about. in any community you have to sublimate your own selfish wants for the greater good of the community. i have been to "model" villages in india that are remarkable examples of what is possible

education and civics? again this does not apply to successful religious communities.

co -dependence? well i dont know if you are aware  but co-dependence has a rather negative psychological connotation right now. i would use the term inter-dependence.

respect of course and this is easily developed thru dialog .

i think the reasons it is so difficult to createcommunity in the u.s. is the same reason we have a 50% divorce rate.

a failure to communicate and ego based behavior. a marriage is the creation  of a third entity apart from the individuals.

it requires work and preparation to have a successful marriage in the same way a community is a third party rquiring the sam elevel of work and communication but with many more people.

another thing to consider is your definition of success

if you look at the 4 stages you will see they can apply to an individual.

thanks again 



  • Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - 03:53am



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    Re: COMMUNITY?????????

This is a fascinating issue and one I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.  In fact not two minutes ago I just finished a discussion with my wife about it, and a couple of hours before that two members of our local "Crash Course" group were over for a meeting on this exact topic. 

I’ve lived in communities of varying levels of organization and sophistication.  I haven’t had as much experience living in community as it sounds like joe2baba has, but I’ve had enough to know that the experience of what Peck calls "true community" is elusive and rare.  And I’m not even sure it’s desirable. 

My understanding of "true community" doesn’t require people to be in alignment on all of the issues all of the time.  In fact I might be concerned if such a phenomenon persisted for too long.  I’d be wary that "groupthink" was setting in and that perspectives and ideas outside of what is deemed acceptible by the community were not welcome.  

In my version of true community there is space for disagreement, divergent thinking and even conflict.  But it’s imperative that there is an established and safe forum for expressing these differences, and that they are handled respectfully and skillfully.  Conflict can be a powerful catalyst for evolution and growth, or a destabilizing and destructive force, depending upon the community’s relationship with it.

Pseudo-community is much more common, though, and is often what people are referring to – consciously or not – when they use the word "community".  I agree with Aaron that real community most often arises out of some kind of necessity, whether that necessity is living in a rural area (as joe2baba suggests), responding to a crisis (putting out a fire) or sharing resources to achieve a common goal or ideal (a religious community).

I am seeing this in our local Crash Course group.  We’re in a process of figuring out who we are as a group, what we’re doing together, and where it’s all headed.  We don’t have the answer yet, but the question of "what is community" is at the forefront right now.  We’re a group of people who share similar values, ideals and concerns who have come together to support each other in preparing for the coming years.  But are we a "community"?  At what point do we become one?  Is it possible to form into a cohesive community when most of us are not living in the same neighborhood and are not (by necessity) directly involved in the daily activities of each other’s lives?

At the end of the last meeting we all committed to taking the following actions before we meet again: 1) completing the self-assessment on Chris’s site (for those who haven’t already done so), 2) put together our emergency/crisis preparedness kit (water, stored food, cash, first aid, etc.), and 3) make a list of skills we’d like to learn and skills we can teach for a "skill-sharing" group.  These commitments were made together as a group.  Yet the actions will largely be undertaken by each individual or nuclear family.  Is this community?  I don’t know.

I imagine many of these same question apply to the group of people coming together here.  Are we a community, a distributed network, or both?  And how does the answer to this question inform how we work towards the goals Chris has articulated and we (at least theoretically!) share: raising awareness of these issues and becoming a force for positive change?




  • Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - 03:55am



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    Re: COMMUNITY?????????

TPTB have an agenda and sites like these will eventually be blacklisted with Internet2.  They are doing trials in Australia.  Enjoy this site and other alternate internet sites while it lasts.  I really hope we DO NOT let this happen.  They will use pornography as the reason but will be able to blacklist sites that are deemed inapropriate 

  • Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - 08:34am



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    Re: COMMUNITY?????????


TPTB have an agenda and sites like these will eventually be blacklisted with Internet2.  They are doing trials in Australia.  Enjoy this site and other alternate Internet sites while it lasts.  I really hope we DO NOT let this happen.  They will use pornography as the reason but will be able to blacklist sites that are deemed inappropriate 


Considering the number of child porn rings that were traced back to Australia, I don’t doubt they are attempting to blacklist some sites deemed inappropriate.  Some of these people, who I’d like to stab if they got near my five-year-old boy, talk and chat about toddlers, babies, and older boys.  Multiply this by millions (of men) and this is the market around the world for little kids.  I know this is more than harsh, but if all of these criminals were eliminated in one fell swoop, I would be happier knowing I was in a community who didn’t want to harm me or my child.

Targeting sites like this ( would be at the bottom of a slippery slope.  I know Congress is trying to pass restrictions on some areas of the Internet and trying to pass laws involving usage charges, but these are complicated bills and I have not read through it thoroughly.

Here’s the bill I think you’re referring to: (s. 3344) aka Protecting Children from Pornography and Internet Exploitation Act of 2008


What’s scarier is H.R. 1955 that may severely stifle Internet freedom and worse.  It’s scary to imagine "thought crimes" as illegal and anyone can be considered as a "homegrown terrorist".  These are examples of specific language this h.r. uses.  1984 anyone???


  • Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - 02:33pm



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    Re: FREE PRESS?????????

The Internet is the only true independent media we have left. If we allow it to be governed in any way we will have lost the most powerful tool the average person has left with which to fight for truth.

Give them an inch and they will take a mile.

As for the community nature of this thread I expect at some point in late 2009 a lot of us will be wishing we had got together to get a sustainable community in place which was also able to defend itself from external threats.



  • Wed, Dec 17, 2008 - 12:42am



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    Re: COMMUNITY?????????

what does child pornography have to do with a serious heartfelt dialog about community?

this is th ejob of a facilitator in dialog to keep on topic and prevent the group form digressing.

  • Wed, Dec 17, 2008 - 12:59am



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    Re: COMMUNITY?????????

hi chris

yes i should have been more precise about in true community being in alignment on all issues. good catch

the context i meant that in  was reaching a consensus on the issues the community is dealing with. i would suggest investigating sociocracy. for me that consensus revolves around agreements which are negotiable and more empowering than rules

true community is not a peaceful panacea by any means. but of the 4 stages it is the most effective and rewarding personal value judgment). but the underlying principle is the we are in this together. once a group operates that way then a good disagreement can be very productive.

i am in many "communities" they all vary in committment and time. in the rural setting neighbors are the first line in community. we watch each others backs, we help each other in numerous ways and we come together common projects.

you are doing the same thing we are doing here. we had our first meeting on sunday and we are just trying to find our way

we created a list of gifts and needs which we are sharing with the quakers and unitarians in a data base. we are going to meet next and dialog about community gardening and local currency. we have a yahoo group where we can share info 

would love to share experiences and ideas with you to see if we can help each other.

you can email me at [email protected]

  • Wed, Dec 17, 2008 - 04:01am



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    Re: COMMUNITY?????????

hey joe,

i’ll shoot you an email when i return from christmas at my wife’s family’s place in canada.  it does sound like we’re exploring a lot of the same questions in the context of our groups.  let’s brainstorm.

after your clarification i see that we’re on the same page re: community.  you’ve articulated it very well.

the question remains of how those ethics and values can manifest in a distributed network like this, where there is no actual contact or accountability.


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