We were up late night in upstairs Rock Bottom (the dining hall) talking about the future of East Wind nut butter and thoughts on capitalism. I was getting to the idea that if someone out there is silly enough to pay $30 for a 16 ounce jar of peanut butter we should milk them for it. Everyone in the room disagreed with me on moral grounds but they all pointed out that I kept saying “we”.
This is the mindset you naturally take on within an egalitarian community. Such attitude is inevitable when everyone makes the same amount of money and work is considered anything that make the whole of community better. Upon entrance into the community as a member, you are asked to leave all your land and bank accounts behind. When I first heard this rule it sounded very daunting and controlling. It does make perfect sense though. Obviously there are natural limitations to equality and egalitarianism. The best you can do is setup a system where everyone is equal economically at least. Everyone has the same opportunity on this community, but it is up to the individual to pursue opportunity and this is where the equality of power begins to fade.
The land in the Ozarks is filled with noisy bugs, armadillo, deer, bluffs stalking over the river and oaks on both sides. It is beautiful. I took a long hike with some of the oldest members of the community. One person who had been there with the communities inception and another who had lived there since 1979. They were both in great shape to hike around and climb rocks. I got a great interview with them as they passed around a bottle of whiskey and we stared at the skies.
The food is absolutely delicious and you get the feeling that you are becoming healthier with every meal from East Wind.
East Wind is a nice balance between the anarchy and lawlessness of “The Ranch” and the tedious structure and long meetings of Alpha Farm. In my personal opinion, East Wind was just right. Like the Ranch the community is open to the dangers of being infiltrated by slackers and questionable characters but unlike “The Ranch” there is a well-worded system in place to get rid of those people.
East WInd is a fine example of Social Democracy and it works well within the small scale of the commune. The original charter written by Kat Kinkade called for a population rising to 750. Kinkade probably would have wanted more but she was held back by the water demands. Most members shutter at the idea of having such a huge population and most recognize that their would have to be serious systematic changes in governance to function.
Kat Kinkade is an interesting character. She started Acorn and Twin Oaks, two sister egalitarian communes in Virginia. She also started the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. She was the major force behind every egalitarian community that exists in the U.S.
Kinkade read “Walden II” and was inspired by the B.F. Skinner’s behavioral psychology theory and wanted to try out the concepts on a large level. She was not interested in making a hippy commune, and she was not primitive.
She was all for technology and she abhorred lazy potheads. Spending hours combing through the old charters and declarations from the 70s I began to get a feel for the pragmatic nature of Kinkade. I could not figure out what drove her. In her mid-thirties something inspired her to put her entire life and loads of money into her philosophies. Some say she oversimplified human nature by thinking we could be controlled and trained through a series of rewards and punishments like lab rats. She seems to have disappointment in every community she started, but for what it is worth, she did a great job.
East Wind is unique by having a nut butter factory. This has made the community semi-affluent compared to every other commune. Although the cost of peanuts rising is hitting the business with doubt, they are still moving forward, installing solar panels and a T1 line. The T1 line was a cause of commotion during my stay. People feared the culture of the community would change if WiFi were all over the commune and that people would become more isolated. Others thought it was silly to fight the waves of technology and that hermits will hide away either way.
I had a wonderful time there. People were promising me interviews if I stayed longer and I hear they cooked a birthday cake in my honor although I was gone. I fell in love with the land and the characters there and was very much a part of everything that goes on. I am afraid that some may be upset by the reality I present in the documentary, because it will not all be a picture of utopia, but then nothing is.
The Greek translation of Utopia is “No Place”.
Before I left, the community loaded me up with a hellofalot of peanut butter and homemade lemongrass wine to give to the Radical Faeries which brings us to the next story…….
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