Art Kopecky  author of New Buffalo:  Journals from a Taos Commune
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Art Kopecky -Essays

Zero Population Growth
Spring, 2017

Communities Mag. Article: Communities and 0 pop.
      To my mind, dear friends, Intentional Communities (IC), potentially, play a critical role in the advance of our civilization while helping us alleviate our most pressing problems.
      We are all familiar with the myriad challenges facing humanity. To rescue ourselves the most important prerequisite is to achieve 0 population growth. (And then, even, gradually reduce). All other advances are negated, if we can't achieve this.
ICs play a vital role by being the advance on the nuclear family. The desire and need for family is very basic to humanity. ICs provide a family without each having to create a new family. In this political season,
read more>>>>

Community Essentials

     Sometimes, when explaining intentional communities (IC) to people, I say "we" are living in the future: communitarians are developing the ethics of a more sharing, cooperative, economy and lifestyle that will be more prevalent in the future. And this I very much believe. But the two communities that I was devoted to, New Buffalo (NB), near Taos NM in the 1970's, and Green Valley Village (GVV), north of San Francisco recently, both foundered on some very basic principles, though the visions had such high hopes. So believing IC's are still in the formative stage, I want to share with you dear friends, my experience, in the firm hope that more of you pioneers will get it right and make IC's a bigger part of our culture.
      I was not an initiator of either of these "on a farm" communities, but instead, ...

Peace and Justice Essay
February, 2013

     The December-January issue of Peace Press included an article about the Monan's Ril Intentional Community (IC), and the theme of creating community. I'd like to continue those thoughts and expand on what the IC movement offers. Besides Monan's Ril, Sonoma County boasts the OAEC one of the world's leading communities, and there is the Green Valley Village (GVV) an extraordinary model of community involving over 50 people on a beautiful ranch near Sebastopol. And there are others: La Tierra, Bodega Pastures, Ocean Song, as well as many Co-housing endeavors.
      1) One could say that the leading issue of our time is greed and the inequality of wealth. ICs demonstrate, and give a theatre of action for, "non-greed". An expression on the left is "common dreams". What better dream than groups of friendly people living and working together, sharing properties, growing lots of food, and offering hospitality. These communities foster cooperation, consideration, and...

• Irony of Right Livelihoodl
from Communities Magazine #152, print version Fall 2011

     It strikes me that, in or society monetary recompense is often inversely proportional to the value of the work. At the top we have bank presidents, hedge fund managers, and corporate CEOs, earning outlandish sums, accumulating fortunes in the many millions. And they are overseers of a culture that promotes greed and is often destructive and is perfectly happy to run people over by the thousands. their flagrang selfishness creates vast discrepancies of wealth that threaten our democracy, vacuuming up so much money that the middle class is being destroyed.   >>>more download pdf of article

Taos Creek with sheep at New Buffalo.

• A Broken Record

from the North Bay Bohemian, Nov. 3, 2010

Friends, here we are at the very apex of human thought and endeavor, yet public discussion on the economy sounds like a broken record. For instance: we're waiting, hoping for the economy to "recover." Maybe at some point, growth is not normal or possible, and we cannot recover by reverting to an unsustainable trajectory.
>>Go there or >>Read it Here

• I'm Not the Only One
The American dream isn't about wealth--its about who we are. - North Bay Bohemian, Feb. 24, 2010. Read it there,
>>Go there or >>Read it Here

Cold Comfort Farms:
Rescue our communities and we rescue ourselves. May 13, 2009>> go there.
Essay published in Open Mic.  >>Or read it her

Aquarian Morning Community: What the next great progressive movement must look like. Article from the
No. Bay Bohemian- Feb. 6,2008

•Summer of Love 40th Anniversary•The Communities movement:   Key to the New Paradigm

•Power of Ideas
•New Buffalo and the Movies

Aquarian Morning
Community: What the next great progressive movement must look like.
By Arthur Kopecky

     For a century, the United States has led the world in growth, industrialization, finance, development, tall cities and expansive suburbs. Now the world imitates us. For better or worse, China, India, Russia and others have adopted our free enterprise model. But along with prosperity, we have also created a hungry monster. Growth and debt are the cure for everything, but they cannot expand endlessly. We are reaching the limits now.

     Here is where a new progressive movement could make a contribution to calm America down, help us go to the next level. We can lead again, but this time we need to spread the good life beyond the narrow confines of what mass culture deems "successful" and replace greed with generosity as the dominant value in order to go to the next level of democracy.

     We can't get there by violating people's rights, so a revolution of values (a frequent refrain of Martin Luther King Jr.) is called for. Words without action are nearly useless, but an action that demonstrates all of the progressive values is found in the intentional communities movement.

     The Aquarian Dawn of the 1960s introduced a pantheon of ideas, but the culture of overindulgence sidetracked its beginnings. This time around, let's get it right by adding to the choices that the young imagine by creating viable, friendly, enterprising communities of a great variety, where millions of people can live and work and create without each becoming personally wealthy. Then we can reduce government bureaucracy. Then we can reduce the power of the health-insurance industry, which is wrecking our medical system. Then we can contemplate the end of ceaselessly expanding the cities. Then we can stop building more prisons. Then we can face the fact that there is not now, and won't be later, a high-paying full-time job for every potential worker.

     To have an influence on the culture takes a very dramatic effort. If the drama is nonviolent, then the people part of the equation has to be large and impressive. Small groups living together, sharing property and responsibilities, providing basics for many, makes a brilliant initial statement, accomplishing a reaffirmation of faith in the goodness of humanity, a reduction in the investment needed for further military preparation of every kind and finding more people living closer to the land rather than paving it over.

     Anger won't achieve it, blaming some group won't bring it. Cooperation, dedication, vision, joy, investment in the group—this will do it. Who will do it? Most of us create personal little worlds that include only the immediate family. But some of us work for extended family values. Join the Federation of Intentional Communities; subscribe to Communities magazine. Find some friends and like-minded folk, and make a success of this movement.

     Attend local community events like the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Ocean Song, Green Valley Village, the Harmony Festival. Create the most friendly, productive, inviting, shire-like, eco-village farm. Think grand, because the problems are immense.

     Be the one to take on the most difficult human challenge of fostering cooperation, substitute consideration for people over ever greater profit, show the cynics that greed is not the end all of human evolution. Enhance love of the pristine natural world, and leave some resources for the future.

     The organization Plenty, based at the fabled Farm in Tennessee, joined with some churches in New Orleans to bring aid. Even with such disparate backgrounds, they found common ground. All of us can do that if we remain positive about America's role in the world, embrace free enterprise and believe in self-reliance. Here is a new movement that finds unity, preaches peaceful action and prepares for difficult times. This is the Aquarian Morning, or whatever you want to call it. It is not more of the same: get mine and get buried in debt. Here is romance, service, health, companionship and freedom. What will it take for this movement to grow, to balloon and become the exciting, the transformative force so lacking today?
      Art Kopecky is the author of 'New Buffalo: Journals from a Taos Commune' and 'Leaving New Buffalo,' UNM Press. He lives in Sebastopol with his family and works as a contractor and finish carpenter.

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Summer of Love Anniversary September 2, 2007

Summer of Love Stage Crowd at Summer of Love celebration
Dear Friends:  Here's my take on the 40th anniversary of the 'Summer Of Love'
     A Terrific Gathering was created. The leadership (whoever they are) put together an excellent stage and wow sound system and organized a lot of people, medical staff, bathrooms, vendors and all done by word of mouth I believe. Almost all the music was top quality. Five large flags, with earth and peace symbols flew on each side of the giant stage. At the opposite South end of the green speedway meadow -near half a mile - a giant teepee with new poles anchored the booths of artists and causes. Just beyond here the twelve tribes family from Morning Star San Diego County parked their OUTSTANDING psychedelic bus with welcoming red carpet and pavilion. They are strong and wholesome, sharing and smiling. Our culture has a lot of Christian influence and they share that too. They are great messengers of the extended family in community. The Farm and Plenty had a booth also!#!
     As at Harmony and many other festivals, the convocation was led off by several dozen native Americans singing, drumming and speaking of caring for the earth, living in harmony, and creating an alternative to the "creed of greed". Well done. As the people streamed in the cast of HAIR led off loud and clear with the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius and gave us the inspiration of "Let the Sunshine". WOW. I was overcome with emotion, unable to speak.
     At this point I found Ramon and Judith and the tribe and helped erect the Morningstar banner which Sandi had just brought down from Alaska!! good job. Ramon was prepared with hammer, stakes, two 12 foot poles, cord and balloons and purple tassels so people wouldn't run into the supports. All the while the very smiley crowd flowing and increasing.
     On my flag waving rounds, far to the south end, a giant hippie Santa Claus, dressed in full Tsarist Officer Uniform of black and red (Sergeant Pepper) came up to me and asked if I knew where in this ocean of 50,000 people he could find the banner of the eight pointed star. This was John and Jeanie and dog Trooper just arrived from Madison Wisconsin!! Without missing a beat he rendezvoused with me using only the psychic hot line. We knew of each other from the mostposts web group but had never met. I easily described where the Morningstar encampment was.
     I want 'our' Summer of Love culture to explicitly embrace - open land, intentional communities, and eco-villages, where people work and plant and live and foster a culture of caring for each other and the earth.
     After 40 years this element is still not explicitly spoken of. Steve Gaskin was honored with a few minutes. Wavy Gravy was on stage for some time helping MC. The whole event was donated and free. But this part; the sharing the wealth through sharing property and building eco-village communities was still not proselytized. Dear country Joe led a long cheer of F U C K, and there were some considerable boos for Bush. But this group is still not explicitly grasping that their real POWER to change lies with the positive, creative, wholesome, constructive energy of the intentional community movement. Let's talk it UP!!%#
We're getting there, we're close.
     For me the rap lags 1000 miles behind the excellent music. (Of course the Mime Troup's "Cake walk to Baghdad" was excellent I must say). I would dearly love to help supply that focus on communities. I add my love with top hat, banner, wand, books and smile but would intensely like to see this "back to the land" idea mushroom again. We are so close. Let's talk it UP.  Make the break, we can do it, it's OK. When you hear, this year there are MORE (extended) family farms, not less, then you know we are fulfilling our destiny!
     Simultaneously 'we' just had Burning Man, last weekend was the Mendocino living culture festival, coming up is Earth Dance, then next year another round of gatherings and festivals. They need to be seeding full time communities for us to have our proper impact and really influence the 'creed of greed'. We certainly aren't fading; we have so many of the elements. But by the gauge of how many year round welcoming communities have been formed 'we' still are in the very formative stages. We want to expand our legacy; I know there is the sense we are onto something. We faded and we got the neo-cons in power and the Iraq war.   We need to go over the top now and create a giant, sure and friendly, movement: Power to the peaceful.  You can say that I'm the dreamer,  but you know,  I'm not the only one.   With love, Arty

Some further thoughts:
    The Summer of Love anniversary has unleashed some good conversation, and some good spiritual energy. Similar to Phil Morningstar I had a high, floating, positive, excited effect for days after and I'm pleased we seem to have been able to transfer it across state lines to Miss Pam Hanna in NM. I'd like to continue the conversation some.
      Pam's reference to Ruth Boggs on Bill Moyer's show advocating that 'we' are the leaders', we are the ones we have been waiting for, we have come to the time for activities outside politics, is right on the mark. The New Deal, the civil rights movement, were much about legislation. But this communities movement, though it has legal aspects, is primarily about values, ethics, what people do with their lives and money; it is about building a large base of communities first.
     'Our' minority is concerned with things like: 1) Sharing wealth, creating eco-villages. 2) Developing the "steady state economy" getting away from the stress of the "growth economy" and it's massive building and paving. 3) Shifting to investment in people away from investment in armaments. 4) change of drug laws.
     These are not popular views, first they require grass roots action. If enough people will demonstrate wholesome sharing then the images of the Haight drug scene, of Jones Town and Charles Manson, can be put behind us. Indeed the left in general has much to put behind it. As a matter of fact, just off the AP wires a story by Michael Hill tells of Pete Seeger's new song, "The Big Joe Blues" about Stalin. This was deemed important enough to make page 2 of our Press Democrat (9-1-07). And it is part of the shift.
     The communities movement, the Aquarian Dawn, is a fresh start. I like the idea of the Aquarian Morning. Now things are clearer, brighter.
     Morningstar community was the theatre of several hundred people, but it had the impact of a nova. This highlights the power of a smallish group to have a wide effect. Create transformation by setting an example. Indeed the Sept. 17 Time magazine (pg 55) has an article about the "Eco-village at Ithaca".
     There is a great potential here I am sure, for the communities movement besides being outlandishly progressive is in synch with many traditional, even conservative,  American values.
     1) This movement has a definite pioneer quality. It is a movement of self-reliance, not one of creating government programs, but of private citizens developing LLCs where folks can create live and work.
     2) In the Aquarian Dawn there was a correct rebellion against building the mammoth, bull dozing, city creating machine of greedy consumption. But there is still hard work to be done. Small scale farming, home maintenance, hand crafts, self-sufficiency all fit the American value of work. The revolutionary aspect is work for "us" not just "I"; creating the home of conscious kinship to many.
     3) The communities also offer a road away from debt, which used to be a core American value. Basically the community members aspire to have the parent organization own the property outright. The individual members have no need to carry huge debts. Being earth, meadow, forest, stream glen and field friendly, there is no need for huge building expenses. To expand they basically pay as they go. 
     4) Some Aquarian values are very traditional: "find common ground", "count your blessings", be generous of spirit, help thy neighbor, find the good in others, and celebrate hospitality.
     5) This is not a Marxist revolution. The communities are part of the free enterprise system. They too have small craft and farm businesses. The American public is well aware that free enterprise has created our prosperity. Look at the Yellow Pages of every city. You can't be against that. Look at the failure of the old communist model, it didn't have the yellow pages with 1000's of businesses. The communities are little enterprises themselves.
     6) The community people also share spirituality. Though not pushing the over-lording, "we are the only way" religions, the Aquarian believers naturally hold hands and form a circle. They naturally give thanks for life and beauty and abundance. And they naturally share the bounty of creation. 
     Here is why I find constantly lambasting the government counter-productive. One can criticize but for a large movement we need to emphasize the shared values. We counter Empire building from the bottom by creating a style not dependent on ever expanding consumption and the need for an Empire controlling vast resources.
    I am so thankful the Aquarian spirit and the communes came into being. We have so much to build on - now to grow and become a force that transforms. 

Summer of Love stage close up
Summer of love crowd close up

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           The Communities movement: Key to the New Paradigm

Presented by Arty Kopecky, wrap up speaker on the Wisdom stage at the 2006 Harmony Festival, Santa Rosa California:

It is wonderful for me to be here today at this marvelous event. The promoters, Scott and Sean and Debra and many others offer this festival as a party with a purpose. The purpose has to do with no less than creating the future. And it is recognized that succeeding with our dreams for a better world is intimately tied to ideas and actions involving community. Note the fair’s announced theme of “creating sustainable local community”. Even though, for most, just what this means is not clear yet, still the idea is there. I come from deep inside the communities movement as is recalled in my books about the New Buffalo commune in Northern New Mexico, where I dedicated eight years of my life, lived with hundreds of people, and helped create a dairy farm.
   As the great wheels of history churn many of us sense that something important must change. Many sense that we are coming to some critical cross roads. It is shocking on the national scene to see what a low ebb of influence the progressive side has come to. Yet there is also an expectant sense.
In song and word: we hear more often the catch phrases of transformation, new paradigm, new age, restore the balance. I believe the pendulum has started to move. I am sure its energy, its momentum, is directly connected to this idea of community. Community has 10,000 aspects, but at the apex, at the vanguard, are the intentional communities. These are groups of people controlling and sharing actual pieces of property where the extended family can live and work and help each other and then reach out. I call them the church of the progressives. If they would grow 100 fold, then 10 times that: there would be your grass roots, people powered base for a new influence. There is your contribution to democracy: a greater equality of the wealth. There is your answer to never ending development. There is your challenge to the ethic of consumption and greed. There is the security of growing food and sharing hospitality with an extended family.

Here is the logic:   Marxism was a huge movement. It stumbled badly because it did not respect human rights enough. No movement will achieve the necessary strength in the United States without recognizing the positive contribution America has made to freedom and democracy. The communities movement is an outgrowth of freedom and makes an advancing contribution to democracy by improving on the one glaring contradiction in American democracy: the distribution of wealth. Only by ushering in a new ethic of concern and generosity can this be done. It must be done with kindness not violence. We would challenge the fear, the distrust, the violence, and the selfishness that is coming to characterize our society. In the Aquarian spirit we must do this without laying blame or painting some group as the source of evil. We need a really heavy dose of positive input. And here it is started. We have the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, the green valley village, this festival. This is a beginning and this is how to feed it, to grow it. It takes commitment and dedication of wealth but the communities movement can be made to grow. All the elements are here, now it only lacks the will and that we will gather if we are righteous.

More of the logic:
Marxism disparaged religion but now a new spirituality is on the rise, which accepts all the expressions of faith. This spirituality is extremely important and it is very strong here, in this place, at the harmony festival. The spirit embraces love of nature, love of people, acceptance of interconnectedness, acceptance of humanity’s heritage, including all the faiths. Now make the leap to having many permanent centers dedicated to this spirit and be able to farm like the Amish. Show this faith can supply the devotion that can make a person live a life of service to good works. You can have this, but it must be in deed; and that is property shared. No way around it, fall short and you remain on the sidelines watching these other historic forces continue the descent that the human group, as a whole, is experiencing. This is a huge challenge, but such is our predicament now. That is why there is a vacuum. The standard answers don’t help. Growing the economy won’t do it. More education won’t do it. Sharing property will do it. Create these real property ecovillages then the energy will flow to you. There is a deep well of basic intelligence in the population. Give them something to rally to that is hopeful not angry. Give them a unifying message; give them a safety net, lead by example. If you want the leaders of the corporations to be more generous show how it’s done. It is needed now. No half measures will turn the tide.

This is a humble undertaking: What ‘we’ would like to do is only: modify the ethic of seeking profit with the ethic of service. All we care to do is modify the ethic of personal accumulation with one of far greater sharing. We are only trying to modify the self-righteousness of religions with the new age spirit that God is in all the tribes of humans. All we care to do is stop the rush to pave over nature with endless suburbs and shopping centers. All we want is that Department of Peace and a shift to investment in people instead of weapons.

Yes we need something big, this is no small task. But what is stopping us? We have the freedom, some of us have the wealth. This is new in history. Never has such a large group of the ‘common people’ had such freedom or wealth. Now is the time to use these. What indeed is stopping us? It’s the will, the vision, and that is coming, it is right before you here at the Harmony Festival. People sense there is more we can do, much more. Now it is coming into focus, and now the time is coming for a vanguard of a million or so to create these ecovillages on community centers and especially on farms.

Now I forgot to tell you that there is going to be a quiz, so if you want to go over this stuff, now is the time for questions. Live long and prosper.
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Handwriting on the Wall

     The hour is late for humanity; the handwriting indeed is on the walls.

     What does it read? Can you make it out? It is graffiti on abandoned buildings, it is headlines in the papers, it is bumper stickers on the passing cars.

     I made a journey to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, to an earthen pueblo of neo-ancient design. There, within, were many doorways of odd shapes: some were narrow and arched at the top; others richly painted with shells or bells for decoration. In the interiors were symbols and sayings from humankind’s many traditions.

     And something is on that wall beyond, past the round chamber. The sun light flickers a little as some birds fly through the slanted rays. There is a stillness in these once boisterous halls; the last echo has been silenced by time.  I approach closer. At first the dust covered engravings look like hieroglyphs-but no- it is English, I can read it: “To change the world—choose a life of service”.

I contemplated that message long and hard. I saw huge crowds, I busied myself with work. All about me ads entreated me to buy, buy, buy. Shall I get a boat, or a horse, or a motor cycle?  Perhapsa bigger truck or a faster car?And every here and there I would catch a glimpse of that writing on the wall. “The hour is late”.  “If you would be a help. Be a help now”.

What is that I hear about the glaciers melting, the fish disappearing? It is true isn’t it, that we are six billion people and still caught in a dozen population races? And did I hear our bright councilman say the solution to the traffic jams is more roads so we can have a bigger traffic jam?  My head swirls. Yes I do see the writing on the walls, and I sense the hour is late. It is not comforting.

    Then I think back to another day, when slanted rays of sun illuminated an adobe wall: “To change the world, choose a life of service.”

    It is clear to me now what was meant. It is clear to me now what some must do. If it is not clear to you then I would gladly elaborate. But there is not quite the room here; next time. Next time but soon, for the hour is getting late, there is much to do. And the writing is on the wall.

Power of ideas 9-28-04 
Ideas.  What is the power of ideas? 
    Do you not sense that this is a critical time?  A storm sits offshore.  Our burgeoning debts and our explosive economy have near run their course.  The resources are depleting too rapidly. The family of Humans is still caught in a dozen population races, oblivious to our unity. 
   This time, being the apex of all thought, it would be right if we could use our minds to aid us.  
   Ideas. And what ideas would those be? How about, “Share the wealth”? How about “peaceful revolution”? Perhaps, “ replace greed with generosity” or “back to the land.”


  In 1934 we started a trend of government arising to address all social problems. Now the governments are huge employers and are involved in every minute complaint.  This trend too has run its course.
   It is time for some independent, spiritual people to create a new, peaceful movement with their own resources. Create a safety net of eco-villages for the service of the people. That’s a concrete idea. It is time. Now millions of people have a share of wealth: the success of democracy.  It is time for a group, whoever you are, to combine thought with practice, and lead a movement to reassert our humanity. Use that wealth to help the larger family, rediscover freedom, or descend into a militarized future full of angry, desperate people.

      The storm is not on shore yet. But few deny this is a troubled time.  It is difficult to see solutions because we don’t sense broader possibilities.  We are buried in a din of advertising, entertainment and traffic. An opportunity exists for a vanguard to expand our vision. Create a pastoral scene our forefathers would love to see. Create a strong chain of functioning farms and urban centers with the overt object of serving people.  Create a safety net for the growing numbers of unemployed and the many who do not fit in the fast paced economy. And we want some people not to fit, because it is a ridiculous proposition to try and project our high-speed economy very far into the future, with everyone having a full-time job. We need to reach another stage, and to do that we must envision it first. These proposed eco-villages would be the school, the catalyst, and the testing grounds: a new contribution to democracy.

       So what have you got? Does the future look bright to you? Where does our culture go from here? At the height of our democracy, how can we help the future?

     For those of you who feel overwhelmed by the immensity of our dilemmas, let me remind you of past changes that have occurred. In the years preceding 1776, only a small minority voiced the idea of a republic independent of a monarch. Yet it was actualized. Likewise in the American civil war: emancipation was a fringe idea. Similarly, the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements were both pushed by small committed groups. These great cultural changes manifested because their time had come. Those who voiced the new ideas were ridiculed, but they were right.

     The idea of violent revolution must be supplanted. We cannot build a successful movement by adding to the anger and finding reasons to throw more bombs.  Eco-villages are a perfect modus operandi for the re-emergence of a powerful progressive force. Add this to our culture, make it shine.  This is the antidote to terrorism: good works. Here is the sharing, the volunteerism, the community that is defied by the present culture of each individual family accumulating as much of everything as it can imagine. Here is the vehicle to change the culture of selfishness. Add economic equality to complete the democratic revolution. Here is a way to help the dispossessed, break the cycle that is destroying nature. Add something to our culture that reinforces our faith in human nature and you will have a profound effect. Nurture an overt concern with how we survive and prosper. If enough people make a success of this movement they will have a handle on all the issues that concern us.

     So what is the power of ideas? The time is upon us for something clearly positive to give us promise, to help us in a time of need. Remember that phrase of John Lennon? “You may say that I’m the dreamer. But I’m not the only one."
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New Buffalo and the Movies

Approaching the town of Taos from Santa Fe, the road climbs and climbs, then suddenly reveals a vast panorama when it reaches the high mesa, which is itself, the base for the tallest peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at over 13,000 feet. The drama of this setting attracted Dennis Hopper when creating the movie Easy Rider. This film is frequently replayed and contains a portrait of a commune that is based on New Buffalo. Dennis Hopper actually wanted to film those scenes at the commune but the elders at the time thought it would be too disruptive. Unfortunately that created a bit of tension with Dennis who never embraced the communal ethic the way Peter Coyote did. Nevertheless in Easy Rider and also Flash Back, Hopper does catch some of the essence.

In Easy Rider, the scene of throwing seeds to plant a field is quite accurate. But nothing equals the minutes when the camera pans around the circle of faces at the prayer before dinner. There is a moment’s portrait of each face; the emotion shockingly rushes up when I see those familiar faces. I literally stood in several thousand of those circles, with hundreds of people over the years.

If some people can make that extended family last they will have achieved the pinnacle challenge of humankind. Our modern ‘survivor’ shows create contrived challenges. Along with the ‘reality’ television shows they offer a vicarious communal experience. But none of that can equal the real thing.
There is much in our culture that reminds us of our communal side. Even the cartoon character Homer Simpson has a ‘hippie’ mom and in one episode he goes back to the commune where he mistakenly mixes some ‘herbs’ in with the carrot juice, which is their group business.
In literature, the Tolkien Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, became a sort of bible of the hippies. Hobbits and hippies have indeed a sort of interchangeableness. The story has now been stunningly recreated in Peter Jackson’s film, “Lord of the Rings.” I, so immersed in the community ethic, immediately see in the opening panorama of the Shire, a communal vision. Here is the well-kept pastoral scene of a shared and joyous country life. There is enough of Las Vegas, of Phoenix, enough of Chicago and Atlanta, Buenos Aires or Bombay. Name your sprawling city, enough. That is not my dream. Create the Shire. That is the antidote. There it is in the popular imagination. Is that so hard? Yes it is. Here is the next modern challenge. People flock to hard, so flock to this.

As the movie opens the voice of Galadria recounts the tale of Isaldur. When the ring drops from his slain body and drifts to the bottom of the river she says, “and some things were lost which should have not been forgotten.” I hear that as an allegory for the community endeavor; one, which now I hope, is coming back.
“Something was lost which should not have been forgotten”. For several decades huge wealth was created, vast cities and suburbs were built in a spasm of borrowing and a sort of worship of greed and ultra-individualism. But such is not sustainable. We will have to fall back on more stable virtues, like helping. Frodo and company showed fortitude but they were also carried forward along the way by meeting ones who assisted them; Strider, Tom Bombadil, Aurowin, Elron, Galadria, the Ents, the forward line of humans, and in a twist of fate, Golum. “It is the pity of Bilbo which may yet rule the fate of mankind,” said Gandalf in the mines of Moria. He also said at that juncture, “it is not up to us to choose the trials that face us, but it is our task to do the best we can with the difficulties before us..” That would seem to be a good note to end on.
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A Broken Record: Why are solutions for the economy stuck on repeat? By Art Kopecky
North Bay Bohemian, Open Mic Nov. 3, 2010.

continued from top
Where do the size of our population and finite resources enter the equation? When people and animals mature, they reach a certain size and stop growing. Perhaps that's the correct analogy. Is it so hard to imagine we have reached a mature economy? Maybe there are enough cities, freeways, suburbs and shopping malls. How often do you hear that?

On the left, there's the monotonous broken-record mantra that we must "stimulate" the economy, and the only solution imaginable is government action. It's never suggested that the people themselves, with the greatest freedom and prosperity in all human history, can find a way to help besides being good consumers and shopping for their nuclear family.

On the right, the only contribution to the debate seems to be cut taxes, even though deficits are too big. Then, the idea follows, we'll "stimulate" the economy and huge growth will pay off the deficit and create millions of jobs. (Example: George W. Bush reduced taxes, and everything turned out fine.) For all our vaunted freedom, action on the part of the people is never suggested—except to vote and shop. So little imagination.

Everyday we're besieged by a litany of concerns. We're urged to protest global warming, nuclear weapons, foreign wars and mega-corporations. There are daily reminders that we have 14 million Americans unemployed and not enough jobs for the 150,000 entering the job market each month. There are environmental concerns that development hurts the precious natural world. We need something positive in the mix, something new and exciting.

So, you ask, what have I got? How about: bring on the Aquarian Age. Not through legislation, but through service and good works. Join or support "back to the land" intentional communities. Create a culture of cooperation and generosity by sharing properties.

Are we all just guinea pigs ruled by a constant diet of advertisements, or can some of us strike out and do something outrageously positive, helpful and generous?

Forward-thinking people have greatly influenced our history in the past, starting with the very notion of a country run by the people and extending to the end of slavery, the rise of civil rights, of workers' rights and women's rights. So what's next? I believe the intentional communities movement, already well incubated with a 50-year modern history, fits our need.

I don't think it can be avoided. Some of "the people" will have to pioneer advances in the culture (some are already doing it, but not nearly enough). If young people can dedicate themselves to war, giving up life and limb and comfort, then where are the young people who can build cooperative communities for mutual survival for all? Where are their elders who can encourage a nongovernment people's movement, to demonstrate consideration and even brotherly love?

If we are so advanced, so smart, why aren't these ideas in the conversation? Are profit, greed and accumulation the high points of human consciousness? A few million people on beautiful farms, supportive of the "low money" people—is that such a crazy idea?

Unemployment is here to stay, the cost of living is only getting more astronomical, and the government is way beyond broke. So help out by creating intentional communities instead of crying to be given jobs. Why are we avoiding it? Is it too hard, too creative, too original, too against human nature? Be a pioneer and prove them wrong. Our culture has already come a long, long way.

Create a culture of conscious kinship? Whoa! Stop right there. Let's get back to stuff we're used to: "go shopping," "cut taxes" and "stimulate the economy" so it can "grow" . . .

Ah, that broken record is so comforting.

Art Kopecky is the author of 'New Buffalo: Journals from a Taos Commune' and 'Leaving New Buffalo Commune,' UNM Press. He lives in Sebastopol, works as a contractor-carpenter and is active in the communities movement.

For more information on Kopecky or New Buffalo, please contact Amanda Sutton, UNM Press publicity at 505-277-0655, 505-277-9270 (fax), or Or write the author:

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