A Little History


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. 


This is a word that, while inoffensive in meaning, has negative connotations for me.  I’m 70, so I was in my  late teens and 20s when the hippie movement was gaining momentum, along with the drug culture, and “make love not war” slogans were all over the news. Sonny and Cher were a big deal.  So were bell-bottom hip-huggers with belts a mile wide; long, straight hair parted down the middle; flower children who changed their names to things like Moonshine Starglow; and the rise of communal living was a big deal. 7531783a436c507f33c805d80e7f1cc8

I know, right?  Can’t imagine any of my sons wanting to wear this stuff.

Anyway, the communal living is the real focus here. I don’t know if there are still any hippie communes in existence.  Most of them failed because of the lack of commitment on the part of the members. When things got tough, they tended to disappear.

This history of communal living isn’t terribly promising.  I could go a long way back, but I think I’ll just go to colonial America.  The first effort at a communal style of farming and surviving was at Plymouth Bay. The idea was that everyone was supposed to work in designated fields, and take their crops to the communal storehouse. They could also hunt, and it was expected that the results of those excursions, along with fishing, was to be shared among the entire community.

The problem was that those of the nobility who had come to America for adventure and, they hoped, prosperity, refused to lift a finger. They were above all that. They took more than their share from the storehouse, but refused to contribute anything at all. Used to being waited on and obeyed instantly, they just weren’t cut out for the difficulties of colonial living.

It was the first failed commune in America.

There were others. The Shaker community did thrive for a time, but since they didn’t believe in marriage/procreation, their communities weren’t viable for more than a generation or two. Their work ethic, though, was better than that of Plymouth Colony had been. We still use their style of furniture-making because of its simple beauty and sensible construction.

So why didn’t these communal efforts work?  Why hasn’t Communism/Socialism been a resounding success?  It’s simple, really, but we don’t like to acknowledge the reason.  The bottom line is that typically, as per Cuba and Venezuela for example, that it is those in power who thrive under these totalitarian systems, living off the backs of the people they claim to represent. Eventually, as Margaret Thatcher so succinctly put it, you run out of other people’s money. And when that happens, everything collapses.

Unless the leaders/rulers of a commune are models of virtue, integrity, and high moral standards, the commune/country is doomed to failure because corruption starts at the top and sifts down to the ordinary people–like you and me. Big Brother becomes a living threat, and everyone lives in fear.

I’ve lived long enough to see the failure of Communism in Russia.  I’m watching the rise of capitalism and free enterprise in China, after many years of strict control.  I’ve seen the adage of Marxist thinking, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” fail dismally because the people in charge of redistribution of the wealth tend to take a huge  amount off the top before distributing the rest to “the people.”  In a communal society, you can work your fingers to the bone and not benefit from it yourself. You didn’t build that, you didn’t make that–it belongs to everyone, was made by everyone–which, by the way, is a euphemistic way of saying it belongs to Big Brother. You are nothing more than a serf in the old feudal system of the Dark Ages, where the serfs were allowed to keep just barely enough for their own survival so they could continue to produce what the kings deemed their God-given right.

So no, I’m not a fan of communal living.  Community?  Yes, sure.  But not Communism, two very different things.


8 thoughts on “A Little History

  1. It was my youth as well and although we come from two different opinions on life etc. there I can only agree. It is very well said and explained. I was never a Maggie Thatcher fan in England, but looking back on it all, she sorted a few things that should have been sorted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An accurate analysis, Linda. I’ve read that in Russia, in spite of the huge communal farms, most of the country’s produce came from the small backyard gardens each family was allowed to own. This is a fact of human nature Karl Marx totally missed: when we’re working for our own profit we take a lot better care.

    I had a good friend who joined a commune (I AM — if that rings any bells) and I lost touch with her for years. When we reconnected she told me about the failure of their commune and how “at sea” the members were left. She had it good in one sense: she was doing the purchasing for the commune so had some idea of functioning in the real world. A lot of others had been so isolated for so long that they just couldn’t cope when the thing folded and they were thrust out to fend for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I had it wrong, it’s IAM — Institute of Applied Metaphysics. My friend and her husband left the group, he bought a piece of land, built themselves a house and then another to sell. She told me, “We’ve become capitalists.” 🙂

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  3. The 60’s were so turbulent. When people say the times are bad now, I recall the sixties and think, ah, well, the sixties were BAD. We are or were close to that at the end of Obama’s administration but I think morality is making a swing back. Let’s pray that swing continues. Unrest on college campuses is about as bad, but now we have so many college and career choices it does seem something that can be avoided. That God spared me of the kind of lifestyle of the sixties is only by His generous grace because I was a brand new Believer in 1960.

    Liked by 1 person

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