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.
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.