Everything from children’s toys to bike parts lie strewn across the ruggedly-painted kitchen, as people decorated with dreadlocks and piercings chatter loudly in various languages. The sun streams in through the window warming Lara as she talks and strokes her dog. She has lived in this commune for three years and believes that the sense of community they share here, is what’s missing from today’s materialistic, individualistic society.She has lived in this commune for three years and believes that the sense of community they share here, is what’s missing from today’s materialistic, individualistic society. She yawns wide and sits down on a patchy wooden chair, her tattooed arms resting on a big wooden table and her nose piercing glinting as she speaks:
Growing up in my small village I never wanted to conform to how people and society said I should be and with what I should be satisfied: working all my life to get a new car, TV or sofa. That wasn’t what I wanted from life. Nothing has changed from then. People still talk about the same things, go to the same places, and hope for the same dreams. But that wasn’t for me, so I chose a different path.
First, I went travelling and hitchhiking, living in vans and sleeping in the countryside. Hippie life has its charm and fun, but after a while I realised it was escapism of a different sort. Esoteric things may be idioms for our dreams but they disguise our conservative goals with rituals and new hierarchies. At that point I rebelled against the materialism of the globalised culture of greed and the endless accumulation of products. I think it was more of an emotional reaction, but I realised how much freedom does an iPhone really give you when everything is scheduled and predestined?
This led me to a point where I realised I needed to challenge those absolutes that were conditioned into me by my parents, the hours I spent in-front of my family TV and the information I gathered from various media. Only through undergoing this change could I reconstruct my life with new roots rather than just painting over it with a different brush. I started to look at new alternative answers rather than the ritualised, hollow, rigid sermons taught by hypocritical priests.
In particular, writers like Peter Kropotkin and Michael Bakunin influenced me and taught me that society’s expectations and the ideas of need, greed and possessions, which were created by the elite to enslave us so that they could sustain their own luxuries. I suppose one could say that my rebellion transformed from an emotional to a more intellectual one.
It’s been tough, because rebellion can also bring feelings of rejection and lack of self-worth, which I’ve had to deal with. At first I used drugs to feel better, but as I started to mould the actual roots of my new life I no longer felt attached to the old expectations that would keep me imprisoned in others opinions and what I should be doing with my life.
So, I chose to come to this big city. And here, in the heart of the materialism and greed, I live in a separate community. I can feel I have started to build a new reality with those around me, through mutual aid.
Now I express myself through my community and my everyday actions, whether it is washing huge piles of dishes, throwing myself into a big bin to find some bread for breakfast, or fixing the rusty bicycles that are stacked in the yard for months.
Working, if one may call it that, for this community takes all sorts of forms. There are the odd arguments, sometimes you have to deal with a person who’s just had a row with their partner and just lets it all out on you, for the smallest thing. There are also the ex-prisoners, whose bad tempers precede them, and just need a patient, understanding ear to help them open up and share ideas. You learn to live with people during their emotional fragility and learn from those who have had a hard past, but at the end of the day you feel proud to have built something strong and once again unified.
We are a big unhappy family, but a family. This is not an easy life, but we create and work on our relationships and community every day, because we have to live together and it’s worth the effort. We always have to give the best of ourselves, because we are all individually different. When we realise that we don’t have to rely on anyone else for our survival, we just all have to get down and dirty, and try to survive together. Once we get to that stage, we can start to create our own perfect little world. It sounds like a cliché, but this is something we all want, otherwise we would just be living in an apartment and act and look like everyone else.
At the end of the day, it boils down to shaping a community that fits individuals. When we create an environment where everyone can share a part of himself or herself, all those parts form a community. It’s that freedom to express ourselves, and allow others to do so as well, which really makes me content. To see the communication around me and be able to absorb it through the smiles and creativity, that is what makes me feel complete. There is always going to be competition and arguments, but if every individual thinks as a group, a community, by meeting in assemblies to discuss solutions honestly, we can overcome any differences.