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Selections from Kaliflower, Volume 3

Kaliflower was a platform for propagating a communal vision based on several historical threads including Digger Free and the communalism of the Oneida Community from the 19th century. Volume 3 highlights these philosophical strands with many of the articles that appeared on the covers. Here are a selection of those.

 

Index of Articles:

  1. Communal Archaeology
  2. Keeping Out of Print
  3. Against The Stars
  4. Throwing It All Open
  5. Paying Rent By Faith

 

Communal Archaeology

[ Vol. 3, No. 1, May 6, 1971]

So you think that this communal blossoming is a new hybrid, a crop never before grown in this land. We have discovered another crop of communes that was grown in the last century, on the same soil, from the same type of seed. Two books have been unearthed which describe 85 communes, associations and phalanxes occuring over a period of 30 or 40 years. History of American Socialisms (1870), by John Humphrey Noyes, covers the bulk of them, which were created in the midst of two great national socialistic excitations peaking around 1826 & 1843. However, these were all failures, most of them kicking off within their first two years. The other book, The Communistic Societies of the United States (1875), by Charles Nordhoff, describes visits to about ten successful religious communes, averaging around 50 yrs. old at the time of its writing. The books only overlap in their description of the Oneida Commune, which was formed & led by Noyes. The failures, as listed in the Noyes book, can all be attributed to "Human Depravity," or the members just not measuring up, in cloud-levels, the the heavenly outlook needed for Communism. The successful communities were governed completely by religious inspiration, which solved the problem of depravity by "preparing some for Association by making them better, and shutting off others that would defeat the attempts of the best," according to Noyes. He also relates the Socialist movements which formed so many of the communes to the Revivalist movements which turned on the nation during the same period these waves seem like the spiritual & social revolutions of nowadays, & the Secrets of Success seem to spring, then & now, from the commingling of the juices of these two aspects. There are differences, of course, between our communes & those of the last century we inhabit the magical margins of the Surplus Society, while they were made up of Common People, who had to work hard for economic survival, though their toil was lessened by communal living. They were also much larger, averaging between 100 & 200 members & 1000 acres of land, & required more organization. There is much to be seen thru this historical looking-glass, & Kaliflower will in the future reprint the most interesting sections of these books. But we seem to know even less about the comings & goings of the communes that get KF than those of a century ago. We are doing so little learning from each other we must write, write, write about all the lessons we learn in Maya's School of Hard Knox, so that our communes will live to write their own histories. We can't afford to leave it up to newspaper reporters like Nordhoff, because of the devouring demon that the mass media have become. Let your artists, your writers & dreamers create pages that expose your lives to the many-eyed face of the communes!

KF Vol 3, No 1 Cover

Keeping Out of Print

[ Vol. 3, No. 1, May 6, 1971]

Kaliflower has always politely declined to speak with reporters, interviewers, authors, doctoral students, questionnairists and other informaiton purveyors -- except to discourage them from publishing anything about communes or about Kaliflower. With rare exceptions these are people whose principal interest is status, money, or fashion. It is obvious that anyone with a legitimate interest in communes ought to drop out and go find a commune to live in.

Communes should keep out of the mass media for these reasons:

1. The information sold to the public is invariably inaccurate, slanted or distorted.

2. Communes that have been written about, even in a disguised form, have been deluged with curiosity-seekers, who have disrupted the normal life of the respective communes. At the same time we must point out that those communes who grant interviews are courting this karma.

3. Media publicity is like a shot of speed to any normal social development. It pushes too many people into what they are not ready for, and inspires all kinds of half-baked reactions in the press, public, and government. So long as the idea of communes is spread by vibe and word-of-mouth, they have a chance to form, grow, make mistakes, and feel their way naturally, slowly, quietly. Anyway there is enough incidental mention of communes in the media to make anyone at all ready to join a commune aware of this possibility.

4. Publicity is a direct provocation to local and federal government officials, like building inspectors and food stamp brass, who might otherwise choose to ignore what they cannot fathom.

5. Most communes and commune members are not yet strong enough to see themselves in the twisted mirror of the media without trying to live up to media-writers' expectations, without developing a phony sense of fame and success, and without playing, like move stars, to their imagined fans among the reading public.

6. Entrepreneurs study the mass media for new, interesting ways to make money. There are, alas, several "commune" businesses, which sell "communes" that resemble boarding schools to straight people at a good profit. Publicity harms the communes but helps the "commune" business.

The occasion of this sermon is the appearance, in the Saturday Review of April 24, 1971, of a feature article called "Communes: The Alternative Life-Style," by Dr. Herbert A. Otto, which we have reprinted for your interest. Just to make a couple of points: the passage between bars, on pages 18 and 19, is a slightly veiled description of a California commune which we have visited. The real "Angelina" sends out nice, high, thoughtful vibes, but Dr. Otto's picture of her is of a woman so vain and maudlin, that the very fact she gave him the interview makes us believe his view of her rather than our own. One wonders if she consulted her commune before granting the interview. The Morehouse "Commune" discussed on pages 20 and 21 is a straight business. The various houses are franchises of the mother "commune," and buy the right to use the name "Morehouse" and to practice the sensuality techniques developed by the founders. Each new member must pay a $200 initiation fee, and their publication Aquarius is a glorified price catalog for their courses.

As far as our own being mentioned in the Otto article goes, we regret that some one of our readers was not aware of, or did not respect our view of the mass media, and consequently showed Dr. Otto a copy of Kaliflower. We would like the opportunity to talk with this reader, perhaps over supper, at 1209 Scott Street. We regret that one more degree of the communes' freedom was sold down the river of newsprint.

[Includes a clipping from Aquarius advertising classes and private instruction at the Institute of Human Abilities.]

Against The Stars

[ Vol. 3, No. 9, July 1, 1971]

The star system is a facet of mass culture. Stars are unreachable by definition. They are high "above" the mass and out of touch with it. (Indeed how can you be in touch with a mass?) They are so far away from us that we cannot confide our dreams in them or tell them that something they said or did hurt our feelings. Let the stars fall down!

Each star came out of a lowly group of brothers, and the spirit of the group gave the artist his voice, and when the artist became a star he turned his back on his brothers -- no time for them now -- now the time is spent relating to managers, accountants, reporters, and his own image in the mass media. Let the stars fall down!

Stars are ready-made culture heroes -- they are the TV dinners of the soul. They keep thousands of strong, vital, pertinent local cultures from forming. They dehumanize and isolate millions of people by feeding them a counterfeit but handy ink or plastic image in place of the eager flesh trying to please them a touch away. Let the stars fall down!

If you see a star about to be born in your commune (letters to New York publishers, auditions, admission prices) do everything you can to tie him down, for you are about to lose him to the mass. Try to provide him with an intelligent, critical, communal audience, and try to fan his ambition with the quality rather than the quantity of appreciation.

Now let us boycott the mass stars as much as we can. We don't need to buy their records. We don't need to buy their books. We don't need to spend any more money on mass cultural products. We can save our money and invest it in musical instruments, movie equipment, blank notebooks, and typewriters.

If only we hold on to our patience and faith, and do not cop out on our purity, we will be the practitioners of every art form in due time. And no doubt the artistry of some of us will be spread by word of mouth, and people will come far away to visit the artist in his home commune, and some artists will travel form commune to commune, spreading the pollen of one to all the others. Now we can let the stars fall down.

KF Vol 3, No 9 Cover

Throwing It All Open

[ Vol. 3, No. 21, Sept. 23, 1971]

The starburst of airs, ass and music at Sutro Park proved that we have the genius, the joy and the beauty to end cultural ripping off for ever. We no longer need to deal with bearded cashiers at the Fillmore West, the gay bars, or the commercial movie houses, who pick our pockets for their bosses while wishing us a good day. All we need is for a number of communes to get over their shyness and throw open their houses (or neighborhood parks) for some joyous event. We have the space, the musicians, the performers, the movie-makers, the artists and the writers. Do you think you are too poor in talent to offer anything? All you have to do is open your house and offer yourselves. (We can put you in touch with free actors, puppeteers, music, food, and trips of almost any kind.) Do you have a garden? Have an afternoon tea party. Just make some tea and bake some cookies. (A set of chamber musicians is yours for the asking.) Do you have a big empty room? How about showing some free movies? Do you like children? How about a miniature circus, with popcorn and lemonade? Do the people in your house write poetry? How about a klatch of commune poets reading their work? Do you know Arabic, macrame, pottery or tantric yoga? How about a once- or twice-a-week class and lots of recitals? Do you collect photos of Lady Bird or feathered scumbags? How about putting them all out on display? If you would like to be a host, but are living in too cramped quarters, we can turn you on to free space. There is no excuse for keeping in your closets, creeping out to patronize capitalist culture businesses. Throw open your wiggy-wams to your fellow communards and make our lives more happy, pure, and intense.

KF Vol 3, No 21 Cover

Paying Rent By Faith

[ Vol. 3, No. 24, Oct. 14, 1971]

In the very earliest days of our commune, every member was charged $45 a month for room-and-board. We had a treasurer, whose main job was to remind people when their rent was due, and to hound them if necessary until they paid it. Everyone secretly hated this fact of life. Here we were supposed to be a commune, and yet we had to pay a fixed sum every month to the treasurer, just as if we were straight tenants in a rooming house. The treasurer was like an agent of the landlord. There were a couple of ugly scenes between the treasurer and commune members behind in their rent.

The treasurer earned his own rent by selling Berkeley Barbs one day a week, and he took us one step out of the mess by organizing a Barb-selling expedition every Friday. He would order the Barbs, wake people up about 6 a.m., drive them to Berkeley and drop them off at the choicest corners. Thus gathering money for the rent became a communal activity, even though the fixed rate of $45 per individual remained. An increase in membership allowed us to lower the rent to $40.

A friend of the commune offered us a much more pleasant job, tending the three-acre garden of his horticulturist mother in Burlingame. There was a clear understanding that the money earned at this job had to go into rent, though individuals were allowed to keep a small fraction of their earnings for personal needs. As before, no one had to work more than one day a week. We rotated according to who needed to earn his rent money. Each person got a check written out in his name. The job provided us with a certain feeling of financial security. At that time we were having an occasional "crisis" meeting when the occasion aronse.

Then, when the commune was about fifteen months old, we read two books, History of American Socialisms and John Humphrey Noyes: The Putney Years. Under the influence of these books we held our first regular, weekly meetings, and at one of these it was proposed that we abolish rent on a trial basis, and leave it up to each individual, to pay what he wanted, to keep the house running. Only the treasurer would know how much each person gave. We had come to love and trust each other, and no one was afraid of being ripped off by anyone else. The proposal was accepted.

It was in some ways the most radical step we have ever taken, because it removed the coercion placed upon the members of the commune, by the "reality" of survival in America. Everything else we have done, since the days of paying rent, has been done voluntarily and in good cheer. We could have done it that way from the first, if only we had had the largeness of heart to trust each other.

Two-and-a-half years have gone by under the New Economic Policy, and we have had no serious financial problems. Our main source of income has changed from wage labor to welfare. (We are not afraid of using welfare money because our reliance is not on welfare but on the guidance we get from Elsewhere.) Each member's regular monthly income is communalized. Every once in a while a member gets covetous of the money he brings into the commune, and he demands some of it (we give it to him), but we don't consider this lapse into non-communalism any more serious than not washing off the ring around the bathtub, or gobbling up three bananas when there are not enough for everyone. Faith restores one's perspective.

When we need more money, the matter is discussed at one of our daily meetings, and a strategy for obtaining it is worked out. Some commune members simply cannot raise funds, and they enrich the commune in other ways. Since we don't think that the money a person brings into the commune is "his" anyway (it's all free!), there is no special prestige attached to this form of service.

KF Vol 3, No 24 Cover
 
 
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