Like many others I have been watching Dave Pollard’s postings within a mixture of interest and growing concern for several months now; especially since a discussion in San Jose where I discovered the degree of his engagement in Second Life. His Christmas Eve posting on polyamorism disturbed me greatly. OK I didn’t have Matt’s ironically expressed desire to find Dave’s MIC and spray graffiti on the walls, burn down the buildings and glory in its destruction but I am concerned.
Faced with some of the major issues of the age (or any age for that matter), Dave seems to be advocating a path of withdrawal to a small community, coupled with an unconventional attitude to sexuality which has disturbing historical precedents. To make it clear, I have a lot of respect for Dave, I think his concerns about the ecological and economic structure of our society are spot on. But, and it is a very big BUT, I think his current direction as to the solution is dangerous, and has an historical pattern of danger which looks to be repeating itself.
An MIC by the way is a Model Intentional Community, a development by Dave of some of the concepts of community exemplified by situated communities such as Earthaven. Dave creates a set of characteristics that such a community should have: exemplary, egalitarian replicable, educational, responsible & respectful, self-sufficient & sustainable and finally diverse. Ok that is all well and good, basic statements of value in human systems. idealistic? yes; utopian? almost certainly.
A commentary and summary of Dave’s post
Now if you were thinking of joining, and felt able to achieve all of the above then you are blessed indeed (blessed is the designation before sainthood in catholic dogma and I am using it in that sense) but then the requirements are extended to include: capacity for love, passion for the community’s shared purpose/intention, trust, emotional strength, sensitivity/openness/perceptiveness, good instincts, self-sufficiency, honesty, intelligence/critical thinking ability, curiosity, imagination, creativity, responsibility, expressiveness, flexibility, and tolerance. At this point you might want to proceed directly to Martyrdom and immediate membership of the heavenly hosts. OK I am being a bit sarcastic, but idealism is dangerous. It sets targets that people cannot achieve, ignores the need for evolution and growth and fundamentally carries the danger of …. (hold, I am coming to that, wait)
So far its all good stuff. It won’t happen, but no harm in dreams. However Dave’s follow up gets interesting. He now starts to place some fairly patriarchal (I use the word deliberately) and puritan (that one too) requirements. Members of the MIC are now expected to: Stop at one child per woman, practice radical simplicity, pledge to buy local, leave the Earth as you found it, practice bioregionalism & permaculture, cooperate & collaborate, practice consensus democracy, value everyone’s time equally, pay attention to nature, be self-sufficient, incur no debts, be generous, organic and responsible, and understand and use the power of relationships.
Again some of these are fine, impractical in many societies around the world, only viable in a late capitalist society with leisure time and natural resources to support it, but OK. However the first strikes a discordant note and introduces a longer polemic on the general themes of sexuality which is where I think it gets disturbing given some of the historical precedents. Then we move into conspiracy theories and the demonisation of the other: our civilization society deliberately contrives to keep our social units this small. It doesn’t want us to be self-sufficient and sustainable. It wants us to be dependent on it for jobs, for money, and for the things that money buys, so we continue to support it even though it is inhuman, degrading, tedious, and keeps most of us in constant struggle and misery.
At this point in my reading of Dave’s blog, the historian in me is started to do mind associations with various religious cults from the 17th Century onwards. After more condemnatory paragraphs which are excessive and would not stand up to criticism we move to the heart of the argument; marriage is condemned as a manifestation of jealousy and possessiveness. It is contrasted with the saving power (yes I am being sarcastic and do so without apology) of polyamorism, a word synonymous with swinging if you do a google search and I think in part Dave has this meaning, although sex in second life is there with the physical world. Eros, Philia and Agape are replaced with four forms of love: intellectual, emotional, sensual/aesthetic and erotic. A MIC would manifest these in different combinations between members.
Dave then poses a question: The important issue, I think, is whether such a polyamorous MIC would best manifest the behaviours consistent with sustainability, responsibility, generosity and self-sufficiency, and the operating principles listed above. Would a polyamorous community be more likely to have fewer children each generation, consume less, borrow and ‘import’ less, be more peaceful and cohesive, freer, and, perhaps most important, happier and better able to learn, imagine and adapt?
By now of course the reader will know his answer is yes. He has three grounds: (i) his instincts tell him it would, (ii)wild creatures live in this way, (iii) his own experience of polyamorism as opposed to monogamy confirms his instinct. The only empirical claim here, that wild creatures live in this way does not sustain even a mild inspection. Some species pair bond for life, others work from alpha male or female dominance of herds or colonies. Nature is simply nature, the results of co-evolutionary processes over time and it is ethically neutral, predators dominate niches and the phrase red in tooth and claw is not without justification.
The why and what of my concern
One of the main reasons for investing time in this blog, and potentially offending a few people, is that I think, as I said at the start, that Dave’s broad areas of concern about society are important. It seems to be that the route Dave is currently taking is at best a retreat from the problem, at worst a dangerous diversion that will take energy away from driving systemic change. So that is the why, but the what?
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