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Throughout the process of filming I stopped by three Radical Faerie Sanctuaries. They are sanctuaries for any one who has felt the sting of homophobia or been attacked and cast out by their family because of their sexuality. After an interview with one fellow I learned his mouth had been slit open by a random hate crime in New York.
The faeries have a theme of environmentalist spirituality, a return to nature. They seem to pick and choose from every religion what they like and then throw in a bit of shamanism, Santeria and magic. Ask any Faerie and they will tell you something different about what it means to be a Radical Faerie.
Faeries typically rebel against the hetero-normative ideal in culture. This construct that men are to hunt and gather, not show emotion and smoke Marlboros’ while women are to remain subservient to men and wash dishes and make babies. Ironically, I think many Radical Faeries are setting up a homo-normative construct, this concept that homosexual men dress and act a certain way, talk with a lisp and love Tori Amos. This an ideal that I have seen many homo friends of mine rebel against as well. To be sure, none of this applies to all faeries, only a considerable amount. The faeries and I spent one evening watching Tori Amos videos and I had a great time.
I got mixed signals from all of them about filming, which is understandable. Their desire for anonymity is crucial to their purpose.
On my first visit I made the mistake of visiting the sanctuary on the west coast with a female journalist during an all male gathering. Not surprisingly, we were turned away. Later on I met a faerie at “The Ranch” who left dismayed by the financial mismanagement within that particular sanctuary.
The second sanctuary I visited is located in the deserts of middle America. The land is old Indian romping ground and is treated as sacred. The land is on the continental divide. The sky is huge and two different series of clouds from two different oceans converge above. The sunsets and sunrises are amazing and the weather is erratic and filled with lightening storms. The bugs and animals are unique and the land is teeming with life.
I met Randy at this Sanctuary. He is from Missouri and he told me an amazing story of his life. When he was young his family was on social services and through the social services he was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. He was put in a hospital for a year, half of which was spent in solitary confinement. Years later he found out he never had Tuberculosis and that he was being used like a guinea pig.
From that time he struggled with poor communication skills. He got fed up with his families’ religious hypocrisy and drug use and left home around the age of 12. Mostly he kept to himself living in the woods and on top of mountains. Eventually he got lonely and began hitching rides.
His story goes on from there and gets more interesting. He was well spoken and very polite but he told me that he had anger issues and he wanted to formally apologize to all his former communities for the anger he had in his past. About a month later I heard that he left the Sanctuary after losing his temper.
I don’t believe I would ever want to live in a Radical Faerie culture, I think it would drive me insane. I met three people with names that were synonymous with glitter and when I forgot a name I had no idea what pronoun to use. Without a doubt though, there is a deep seeded anti-homo mentality running through mainstream culture so it is important to have a queer safe space to work out all the pressure, and for that I respect the radical faeries.
I showed up at the last sanctuary in style with 100 pounds of East WInd Nut Butter and two jugs of home-made wine that my friend Jude had made. The ladies of East Wind were in love with this particular sanctuary.
I am not sure how the Radical Faeries will fit into this documentary as a whole, even if I did get the access I wanted. The Radical Faeries are a huge, complex organization that defies definition and is deserving of a whole 90 minute documentary of their own. It would do the Faeries an injustice to include them on this documentary I think, so I probably will not….but don’t hold me to that….
Did I mention I almost got hit by a train in Kansas?
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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