A member of my co-housing community sent out a message with a request. What does this exquisite community mean to you in one sentence? He asked. Not an unbiased question, clearly.
I had nothing good to say, and it gave me one of those nights where I woke up at 3 am constructing sentences. I didn’t feel good, so I deleted the message.
Today, with plans to do anything but think about the topic, I got another message. He persisted. What’s your sentence?
So I spent a few hours typing up my reply. I share it, because it’s what I typed today, and well, it’s part of the story I am telling here. I have removed the name of my community, as I continue to do, though I sometimes wonder why.
This co-housing community is a project and a story.
The story is necessary to make the project marketable and desirable to residents and future residents.
The story may have been true in the past, before the beginning the expansion, but in the past 4 years, the story has become fiction.
It is a story people want to believe. It serves its purpose in maintaining the status quo. It gives residents a feeling of belonging to something amazing, and it is a great story for marketing the project to newcomers. It is also used to silence dissenters.
The project seems quite concerned with “growth”, which appears to be a key objective of many wealthy landowners (and those who support the project). Growth happens through the acquisition of new land, its subdivision, “eco-development,” or simple speculation.
This benefits a few, but doesn’t change or improve the lives of the many, at all. It increases and consolidates wealth and power (and brings new members into the group) of the “leaders” in the community — who are also the employers, builders, experts, and those who write the story (or agree with it) and design the project.
Meanwhile, the rest of the community is expected to be content with low-wage employment in construction, tourism, and services to residents and second-home owners. Just like most rural communities all over the world. Eco or not.
The story is told, reinforced, and believed by many. It rationalizes and hides the reality of life here, which, in truth, is not any different from life outside.
Those who aren’t part of, or dependent on, or interested in this project (either for employment or as a method to earn money)…
people like us, who are self-employed and farmers, who have been here long enough to see a different story…
who have nothing to gain from this sort of project and can, in fact, see another way forward…
we are ignored or cast aside or shamed.
We are called too angry, too fearful, too divisive.
But we know another truth… which is that we are silenced, at least in part, because: A) we have nothing to offer the project and are not dependent on it, and B) our words poke holes in the story that so many others want/need to believe.