American Story: Small-scale communism in Twin Oaks



I keep it up it's easy to look out in society it's easy to look out at what's going on in politics or society and say well I don't like that like I want to protest against that or even of some political decision or whatever you know whatever happens there's things that it's good you know that it's easy to identify a protest against but but there's got to be a flip side to it say well here's what you're against but then what are you in favor of so we talked about you know so people go off to the Occupy Wall Street protest but that in a way it's just as important to stay here and keep you know keep our businesses going and saying well here's the alternative if you don't like the corporation's will then you support you know companies and businesses that are owned by the workers you know so politically that it feels to me like rather than going out and doing something political in a way my life might work that just maintaining this place is is sort of a political action it's hard to locate Twin Oaks philosophically because we operate as a communistic organization and we're sort of a pure pure sort of communism however the way we function is that we are not trying to keep people here and that they can't leave we have a waiting list of people who want to join and the only consequence we have for people who don't work there share because they get kicked out so this sort of small-scale communism works really well well it's Christmas morning so we're having a brunch so everybody in the community who wants to have special brunch what come here and then a lot of people are bringing other things with them to help contribute because what happens around Christmas is people get a lot of stuff in the mail from their family like bruton's what do people get fruitcakes and things like that and so then they can bring it to this brunch and share them tour notes is in central Virginia right between the cities of Charlottesville and Richmond we are about 10 miles outside of the town of Louisa a very rural environment there are a hundred people living at Twin Oaks there are 94 adults and 13 children Twin Oaks was started in 1967 and has been a robust community ever since then and we have spawned other communities using our systems we helped start Eastwind community in Missouri we helped start acorn community just down the road and a lot of other communities have adopted our systems and adopted our practices so we developed these robust systems for keeping people equal and equally empowered I deal with constant like advertisements and people trying to get me to buy things and walking around once bunch of strangers who don't want to look you in the eye am also like burying all my resources and things are like helping and support other people much more like better way for me to live I worked a lot of crappy jobs food service customer service I'm like I'm learning so much and just like I feel like everything I do like helping and contributing to something bigger this is a boiler and the way this works is we start a fire and it has blower in it so it's a very efficient boiler it takes about five or six little logs to heat the water that he says whole building that's 21 bedrooms 21 people well I think we're a lot less focused on money and having nice things I think we're more focused on quality of life I've heard people here say that we pay ourselves in fresh vegetables which is a nice idea I definitely have a sense of of ownership of my work in a way that I didn't in mainstream society I the work that I do here directly impacts the community and if I do it badly for community suffers so because of that there's a lot of incentive to do things right it's very nice I I think that I found the place that I was looking for I don't know if I'll be here for the rest of my life or just as long as it takes to like learn to love myself or learn to love the world I think that there's a lot of opportunity to connect with nature and silence and stillness The Constant Gardener which takes place in Africa now made into a motion picture now why has hiv/aids spread so much faster you know what are the manifestations social-economic you in political all its impact at Twin Oaks it is entirely up to the individual how they relates to any greater being there is no state religion that the community is mandating and so there are people here who go to the local Christian Church there are people who celebrate like solstice and Equinox and like these other holidays like that you know there's sort of naturally inclined towards taking care of animals and people and so I really enjoyed taking care of them and it's hard work it's hard work but it's work that I feel really competent and capable doing and it's been work that I've been able to like take a leadership role in now what tends to happen is that we have new members come to the community and since there are so many areas of the community and they all need managing we have a kitchen and a kitchen manager and auto maintenance and auto manager and that quickly even new members are asked to be a manager of some area it's a very educational process because each of the managers are expected to provide a service to the community in their area and they're expected to only use the amount of resources that they're budgeted don't go over budget in every culture there are still and elite and what Twin Oaks is trying to do is to get beyond having any sort of elite so everybody here is expected to be responsible and so we don't have a political elite we keep everybody at the same economic level so we don't have an economic elite and we also everybody has their own relationship to a greater power and so we don't have our religious elites I was born in Taiwan my dad was in the CIA he worked in the CIA for 20-25 years Central Intelligence Agency and so we traveled back and forth my dad retired from the CIA 1977 and he wrote his book called deadly deceits my 25 years in the CIA and it is all public information like you didn't reveal any secrets but it is critical of the CIA's role in the government basically what my dad says in his book is that the CIA is a tool of multinational corporations that it's not an that the CIA doesn't gather intelligence it creates propaganda to support American foreign policy and so what became clear to me is that his life of keeping secrets this was bad and made him unhappy and I think that something changed in music I don't want to live a life where I have to keep secrets and so I I imagine that had something to do with how I chose to come to Twin Oaks because here everything is open everybody knows my business I know everybody else's business what we are doing at Twin Oaks is clear and public we are not keeping any secrets from anybody and I think that that makes the people who live here happier [Applause] that arrangement worked for me the theme for our New Year's Eve party Twin Oaks is Twin Oaks in Wonderland and so we're taking some of the motifs from the book in the movie such as mushrooms and giantism and we're trying to create that space so when people walk into our living room they're going to see giant mushrooms over their head and they're gonna feel like they're very small like Alice was when she drank the potion that made her very small each adult member of the community has a labor obligation that's 42 hours a week and exchange for doing those 42 hours the community covers basically all the costs of living if all of your medical and your clothing and your housing and your food and insurance and entertainment and transportation basically all of the cost that you have so most of the members who live here in most days don't actually handle any money this is extremely unusual for the United States almost everybody in the country who's an adult handles money almost every day and almost everybody who's here almost every day doesn't we have two big businesses the hammocks making is one of the businesses one of the big businesses and we also make tofu from soy beans voila there are basically no significant scale hammocks production facilities in the United States except for us and the way that we're able to do that is that we don't have any managers that we're paying fifty or a hundred thousand dollars a year for and so that's why it's possible for cooperative workers cooperative to complete compete with globalized industries in other countries because we don't have this capitalist overhead of the very expensive managers on top of us – and alex is a model of one way that it's possible for production to happen in this country and still be competitive with places like China and India the nice thing about hammocks work is that you can come in at any time of the day or night and you can work for as long as you like and then when you leave you don't actually have to leave any note or information to the people who are coming after you they can figure out what needs to be done simply by looking at your work and there are no supervisors and no time clocks it's an honor system tofu is a much more industrial process and tofu there's a real assembly line and you get scheduled to shift and you need to be there and you need to be working at a pace that that keeps the whole assembly line running so if you're if you have a job that's in the middle if you go too slowly the stuff stacks up in the middle and it negatively impacts the people who are after you and if you and any any place after the first location is affected by the speed of the previous locations and you kind of have to keep up and it's quite it's quite a brisk work pace it will be and it's also heavy wet work though after these the automation that we're currently investing in almost a million dollars to upgrade the facility they'll be much less heavy work they'll still be lots of wet work in the tofu Hut but we'll be ease the one of the principle design elements of the expansion and improvement of the tofu business is to reduce the stress on workers I have no idea how many people we're going to have but I'm going to have a few hundreds of cookies oh wow yeah there's going to be a lot of cookies tonight that's a way to begin a new year before I moved to Twin Oaks I actually was an elementary school teacher I have my master's degree in elementary education and I wasn't very happy with the options available to me teaching in public schools or private schools elsewhere because I would always be working with 20 or 30 kids and you just can't can't get to know each kid that well and you can't tailor the curriculum and you never get to know their parents and things like that and you can't follow them you know I would have a kid in my class one year and then they'd be gone and I'd never see them again but here at Twin Oaks the kids are here as long as their parents live here and I'll be able to work with them as babies and work with them as toddlers and teach them history when they get older well I'm gonna work unicorn school and I'm gonna clean the kettle and then I might pick out my party outfit yeah there is a whole costume section of common clothes which is over here we get all kinds of contributions so this is a custom somebody made for for Halloween some years back and I really I took it to a formal New Year's party and it was that it was the hit of the poem so this is coming close short for community codes and it is a free clothes lending library that doesn't have a librarian so anybody in the community can come up and they can find something that is of their liking and they can take it and they wear it until they're tired of it or until it's dirty and then they throw it in the community clothes laundry and somebody else washes it and somebody else dries it and somebody else fixes it if they've banged it up and somebody else brings it up here and puts it in the right location so it can be found again instead of the certain answer choices on cops always seem cracked to Joe Bloggs he quickly finds them in person and in your educational session so so then at 5:00 and so will go make Shakti's bed frame so yeah you're just just presented with with values one in each column right and just determine which is better and don't Marquis Hey well I've learned everything I know here homeschooled I have the longest time I've been in public school is about 30 minutes I traveled a lot when I was a kid and have and really liked the experience of travel so I would like Rowan to have the option to do anything he would like her own to have the option to do anything he wants so if he wants a career that is someplace else if he wants to travel to other countries or live in other countries I would like him to be I feel that he is competent and capable enough to do that you need to to 57 inch boards and 3-3 at 81 so no no 84 now how do they before one of the things I know how to do is how to build things and so I wanted to make sure that Rowan knows how to build things too and so he's even when he was seven and eight years old he was using a drill and a saw I'm just trying to think I'm gonna do my hair yes [Applause] [Applause] [Applause] Happy New Year yeah hey Claire how you doing happy 22 oh yeah can I give you a big hug can you talk into my click you know my dad works in CIA and I actually do have a mic now so Keenan it's so great to talk to you closely like this can you tell me your license now yes the secret of life is to love everything as though everything were you I love you Keenan I'm not saying that back is this gonna be on to you

22 thoughts on “American Story: Small-scale communism in Twin Oaks

  • Does seem kinda attractive! These days it seems harder to be part of a community that you really care about and are involved in! Plus I’ve always liked the idea of working as a collective with and for the people you care about! Most would agree you would work much harder at a job if it were family owned because you blood sweat and tears were sacrificed for the benefit of your own rather than for the “other”!

  • This is called tribalism people these people are a tribe not small scale communism. People of a particular mood and character are voluntarily coming together and organizing that's the thing only people of a particular character will last in that community it's very exclusive. Ohh and there is always a hierarchy it just doesn't have to be set in stone in this context and with this many people.

  • Misleading title here. Twin Oaks is communal as an economic system. Communism, as practiced in China and the former Soviet Union is a political system designed to ensure that the leaders prosper through control of the masses. That is NOT Twin Oaks.

  • This is just POOR CAPITALISM and nothing more.
    You haven't invented anything this is how the ELITES of the world live except they have hoarded more resources so they live better than you guys do. Communism isn't a small group of like minded people getting together and cooperating while ridding themselves of the unwanted, it's having and entire society the good, the bad, and the ugly living in a reasonable way with equal opportunities.

  • WOW. DEEPLY IMPRESSED. THE TWIN OAKS IS THE FIRST COMMUNE I HAVE SEEN ON YOUTUBE WHERE I HAVE NO CRITICISM…….ALL THAT I HAVE SEEN SO FAR IS COMMENDABLE-MY HEART, IN FACT, IS TOUCHED. MAYBE I'LL JOIN? OR AM I TOO OLD? WOULD THEY ACCEPT ME? NOW ONE MEMBER ASKED ABOUT WHY IS THERE SO MUCH AIDS IN AFRICA. I WORKED WITH THE TOP ACTIVIST AGAINST AIDS IN AMERICA – DR. BOYD ED GRAVES, A BLACK GAY LAWYER WHO WAS SUING THE U.S. GOVT. FOR CREATING AIDS. HE WAS IN SAN DIEGO. I COMMUNICATED WITH HIM & WAS ON HIS MAILING LIST–HE OFTEN ASKED FOR DONATIONS BECAUSE HE WAS INDIGENT, BUT SUING THE GOVT. HE HAD TO PAY COURT COSTS–I PAID THOSE COSTS. HE KNEW BLACK SUPER-MILLIONAIRES LIKE OPRAH & THIS BASKETBALL STAR WHO GAVE NOTHING, NOT ONE CENT. EVERY TIME HE ASKED FOR MONEY I WAS THE ONE THAT CAME THROUGH, INCLUDING THE TIME THEY WERE GOING TO EVICT HIM FROM HIS APT, DESPERATE HE WAS I GAVE HIM $5,000 FOR THE YEAR'S ADVANCE RENT…………..NOW ABOUT AIDS…..THE U.S. INVENTED AIDS TO STICK TO THE BLACK GENOME (UNDER PRES NIXON, THE US GOVT GAVE 500 MILLION FOR A 'SPECIAL VIRUS PROGRAM', 1971), LATER, THEY MADE A SECOND STRAIN THAT WOULD ADHERE TO ANAL TISSUE. I KNOW SO MUCH HISTORY & DETAILS ON THIS, DR. GRAVES GAVE ME ALL THE DATA……………..THEY INJECTED MANY MILLIONS OF AFRICANS WITH THE AIDS VIRUS AS A FORM OF BIO WARFARE, SO THEY COULD STEAL THEIR LAND. IT WAS DONE UNDER THE GUISE OF THE SMALLPOX VACCINE, WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR PUPPET LEADERS. THEY PUT THE AIDS IN THE SMALLPOX VACCINE & IT WAS RUN BY THE WORLD HEALTH ORG UNDER THE UNITED NATIONS–CORRUPTION IS IN THE HIGHEST OF PLACES. I HAVE MUCH INFORMATION ON ALL OF THIS & THE DOCUMENTS WHICH DR. GRAVES GATHERED. IF ANYONE WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE, PLEASE CONTACT ME AT [email protected] AIDS IS PATENDED & SO IS IT'S CURE, TETRASIL.

  • Is it just me or is it really, really white?
    Didn't see an asian, hispanic, or black person in the entire place?

    Why's that?

  • You actually live in the opposite type of environment, not communist. All the partners have equal say, just like senators. When you have just one leaders and no way of controlling them, then you will be a communistic entity.

  • I've lived in communities that were exactly like this, and also ones that were quite similar. Some of them were in the Netherlands, UK, USA, and one in Belgium. In each and every one of those places, there was a soft undercurrent of negativity. It was almost like you could feel it growing, day by day. Some of these hippies have some serious fucking tempers! In society it's a normal thing to have a temper. But in these communities, it's like everyone is expected to be happy, if that makes sense. So what usually develops is a long standing feud between members that is very subtle.

    Resources and labor allocation are the 2nd and 3rd most common problem. That in turn usually leads to members getting resentful with each other.

    Twin Oaks is different though. They actually have multiple businesses that are reasonably successful. But the MAJOR problem is that the businesses are only keeping the community alive till the next day. There is no money to be saved for economic downturns, and there is no shared stake for any of the members. So when times are good, you work only till you produce enough. There isn't much incentive to help the community prosper, just the threat of the community collapsing-which is comparable to working just hard enough to not get fired.

    Another downside is that there is no shared equity. What profit that is made is spent on the community. So you could work here for 20 years and leave without a dime in your pocket. The monthly stipend of $150 or so is reasonable, considering what you are getting. But if there is no shared equity that can be divided among the members, then there will be no safety net for those that decide to leave. It was also lead to lower productivity and a general sense of "enslavement". You either work here and live, or you go out onto the street and start all over with nothing in your pocket.

    Twin Oaks needs to flex its capitalistic muscles and make the members of the community wealthy. There is enough man power and solid businesses to make that a reality. When the business grows, so does your net worth…even if it's just a small amount. People need to be able to save money. I doubt anyone at Twin Oaks cares enough to save their meager stipend. It's a worthless amount. But if increased business profits translated into an increase in their equity stake within the business…well then that is a different story. Then you wouldn't feel so bad about giving Twin Oaks 5-20 years of your life, cause when you leave, you would be able to sell your stake back to Twin Oaks and walk out with maybe a nice chunk of change to start life anew!

  • I would like to tour Twin Oaks. I have toured Acorn Community twice. I enjoy learning how other people and communities function. I think it's all a really good thing..
    Best Hammock I ever owned came from there.. would love to have another. 😀🏡

  • Be careful with these amateurish, two-faced people. They will use you as free labor if you go out to visit them on one of their 3-week visitor programs. In fact, they will downright exploit you because it will cost you money. (You can expect to be solicited for a $50 minimum fee upfront, and they will ask you to donate more, hoping that you will pay it.) And in return for your generosity they will have you doing manual labor and domestic work for 42 hours a week in harsh conditions. (They don't have A/C, and you have to check yourself for ticks everyday because Lyme disease is a real problem out there.) These charlatans will tell you that they want you to join, but if they don't like you (and if you don't conform to their idiosyncratic social norms and politically correct ways of speaking), then your membership application will be declined. Furthermore, their membership application process is invasive and discriminatory. They invade your privacy by asking you 100 questions, plus additional follow-up questions, as part of their membership interview that you have to go through if you want to join. Many of the questions they ask you are personal and none of their business. In fact, they’re discriminatory and grounds for a lawsuit. For example, they ask the following questions: “What kind of diet do you follow?” “Are you planning on having any children?” “Have you ever attempted suicide?” They also ask about your love life with questions about your sexual preferences and your past relationships. In addition to their never-ending questioning, they expect you to tell them your life story. The whole interview lasts about two and a half hours! (It is especially noteworthy that they slip in a question about your assets. They expect you to fork over your life savings to them and let them hold onto it for you as long as you are a member. While they make interest on it, you are not allowed to. If this sounds cultish to you, then it’s because it is!) When it comes down to it these people are unprofessional and unethical.

    In fact, they have trouble attracting working professionals to live and work out there. This is especially noteworthy when it comes to health care because Paxus claims that they will take care of your needs.

    The truth is that he is giving you a false sense of security when he says this. They don’t have any doctors or nurses living out there with them—not even an EMT and certainly not any psychiatrists, which they could use! And the health insurance they provide is indigent care from the University of Virginia. To clarify, that’s the sort of health care that poor people get. So you shouldn’t expect to see a great doctor. What you can expect is to see a doctor-in-training who is doing his/her residency. And if you need to go into Charlottesville for regular treatment, then you would have to pay 35 cents per mile, which would come out to about $25 per trip. The problem with this is that they only pay you $100 per month. So you can’t go into town for medical treatment more than once a week because you wouldn’t make enough money to pay for the transportation back and forth. This obviously isn’t enough to take care of everyone’s needs!

    And that’s not even the worst of it. There’s an even bigger lie.

    It’s not even really an egalitarian community because the housing situation is far from equal. The older buildings are cheaply built and poorly insulated, while some of the newer ones are much nicer. As you might guess, the more influential members who have been there the longest can use their seniority to get better rooms in better residences than the newer members if they want to. And there are some long-time residents who are never going to leave because they don’t want to give up the level of comfort that they’ve attained by getting nicer rooms, which means you could be waiting a long time if you think you are going to get into one of the nicer and newer ones. If, however, you don’t mind staying in an old room that they’ve kept chickens and dogs in—This is not an exaggeration; I’m being literal—then they would likely be able to accommodate you . . .

    Did I mention they like to run around naked with their naked children? Or the drug use?

    Don't be taken in by the online recruiting of these people; do not trust these two-faced hippies. Do yourself a favor and give this place a pass!

  • Everybody in the community contributes to raise some one else's kids? There is a name for this—- SUCKER !!!

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