We all love a good story. Fiction is entertaining; whether a good novel, TV show, or feature film, we love to follow characters as they cope with challenges.
At the center of all fiction, however, is a conflict of some sort. There are four basic classifications of “narrative conflict”. While we aren’t a fiction, it helps to frame what “low-drama community” means in these terms:
Man versus Nature
Man versus Nature pits the protagonist against natural forces, such as a storm, a disease, or other natural disaster. As Gaeans, our own narrative is largely defined by this conflict. We are fighting a battle against environmental degradation and ecological collapse.
Man versus Self
Gaeans are also fighting themselves, in a way. We fight against our conditioned impulses which our upbringing and culture engender in us. To paraphrase a Jewish rabbi about the story of the Exodus:
It was easier to take Israel out of Egypt than it was to take Egypt out of Israel. By God’s command, Moses led them out of Egypt with the help of miracles; but changing Israel into a new people, devoid of the idolatrous practices of Egypt, took the strict command of God’s Law and 40 years to purge a generation of Israel before they could inherit the Promised Land.
Like the Bible’s Children of Israel, we seek to take Western Culture, and its many “sins”, out of the Gaean every bit as much as we hope to take the Gaean out of Western Culture in our ecovillage communes.
But, in many ways, in our battle against the Self, we also surrender to the Self. We surrender to the fundamental impulses of the human species. Humans are a highly social species which evolved in a cooperative social environment. We honor this. We also honor our bodies through the way we dress (or not), eat, sleep, touch, etc… Instead of fighting against our inner natures, we embrace them, while keeping the constraints around our nature light and reasonable for maintaining social tranquility and order.
Man versus Society
The “Man versus Nature” conflict also brings the Tribe of Gaea into conflict with Society. Western culture is highly wasteful and destructive to the environment. Our goal is to help change Western culture by modelling a lifestyle that is both high-quality and low-footprint. We also work to decouple our lives from the economic systems that can bring catastrophe and ruin to people through no fault of their own.
Besides being a passive model, we also actively engage in civil activism, promoting our values at a local, state, national, and even international level.
When it comes to the potential conflict between the individual Gaean and the Hearth or other Tribal group, however, we begin to get into the concept of “drama” which we hope to minimize. Rather than utilize coercion to suppress the individual, or allow an individual to bully the group, we employ methods of balancing the dynamics of the individual versus the group.
The primary means for this balance is the sociocratic governance which we teach and employ. Every person has a voice in communal decision-making processes. Paramount objections by any individual are resolved before a decision is made final by consent. Sociocracy balances individuals and groups.
Man versus Man
This final conflict is the most common to encounter in any social group. Interpersonal conflict between individual Gaeans is not only possible, but inevitable. We utilize Non-Violent Communication, Non-Defensive Communication, and other conflict resolution processes to help mediate and resolve conflicts between individual Gaeans.
In particular, a study of social groups shows that the three main conflicts are around three primary issues:
- Power: who gets a voice and a say in how things are done?
- Money: how is money handled, by whom, and is it fairly done?
- Sex: who is having sex with whom, and is it kosher?
Social groups which fail and break apart handle these conflicts poorly. Social groups which survive and thrive handle them well. In fact, thriving social groups might have conflicts more frequently around these issues, but resolve them quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction. They promote an atmosphere where it is safe to bring up dissenting opinions on matters, and communicate concerns. Groups which fail tend to suppress dissent and dismiss concerns until they become catastrophic.
Some of the longest-running communal societies in history are various monastic orders in the Catholic Church. When we look at their vows, we see the “Big Three” issues represented clearly:
- Humility: All monks/nuns submit to the head of their order and the Church above that.
- Poverty: There is no personal property other than a few small personal items of little monetary value.
- Chastity: There is no sexual activity.
When we look at these orders, as well as other successful groups, we observe that these three issue have clearly defined norms in how people should behave. Failure to conform to the norms also has clearly defined consequences. It matters actually very little what the norms are in each of these three regards, so long as they are clearly represented to potential members of the group, and people voluntarily follow the norms with complete agreement to them.
Successful groups also afford time for people to learn the norms and acclimate before they are invited to make a commitment to them. For example, lay brothers in a monastery have the opportunity to live the monastic life for a while, trying it out for themselves, before taking the vows.
In the Tribe of Gaea, these issues have clearly delineated norms, a time is afforded for individuals to learn the norms and choose them voluntarily, and methods for gentle correction of misaligned behaviors are provided.