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The living and the Dead

 
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a.j.craig



Joined: 07 Jul 2008
Posts: 359
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 4:59 am    Post subject: The living and the Dead Reply with quote

Found this essay again while I was hunting around for stuff written about Dark Star.


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It's been around for a while, but it's worth revisiting now and again as we (I!) become more familiar with the whole legacy of the Dead.

When I was a kid, I didn't much like the pop music that was around. I listened to my parents' music - Jimmy Rodgers, Louis Armstrong Hot 5 and 7, Woody Herman, Benny Goodman Quartet. They were already making the film, the Benny Goodman Story. The music I listened to was years old. Mum and Dad had heard it almost brand new, before he had films made about him, before he was invited to play in symphony orchestras.

I was thinking the other day that we who came late can never really understand what it's like to have been in the audience and heard a GD concert for the very first time, not knowing the set list or the reputation of the show, with not even the band knowing ahead of time where the jams would take them, with no awareness of concerts 10 years down the track to compare it to.

We have a totally different experience picking the year we want to listen to tonight and getting it just right thanks to some good cans and Charlie Miller perfectionist flacs.

At the beginning of 1972, Pig was alive and firing. A year later he was gone. Keith went. Brent arrived. In 1986, Garcia emerged from a coma and had to learn to play guitar all over, from scratch. All of this is history and we can never listen to a 1972 show without knowing at the same time what 1983 or 1992 was like. The audiences never had this kind of perspective. They were in a way, part of the feedback that shaped each concert for us historians down the way to chew over and argue about.

I spent about 18 years in a fairly controversial intentional community. Looking back, we can see our mistakes and our achievements, but in the middle of it all, as it happened we didn't have that perspective. We did the best we could with what we had. And mostly, I had a ball.

Years before that I played in goal for a small country rep team against the touring Indian Hockey Team that 6 weeks later won an Olympic Gold medal. We lost, but the score was 3-1, not 13-0 which it had been a few years earlier. People who were around that day are still talking about that as one of the best games the local team ever played. At the time we were totally free of any historical perspective and we just played our hearts out. Memories are really wonderful, and newspaper clippings great to read, but none of this was anything like being on the paddock that day.

So, I am enjoying the dead with all my heart, but I have to keep reminding myself that I can lose myself there. There is still a cutting edge of things that are actually happening in my life now, quite fresh and new, things for this old joker to experience brand new and for the first time. What is it like having kids in their twenties? Not the same as having teens.

What is it like having a prostate biopsy? How do I feel about getting up twice a night to pee. Still things to discover and learn without the hindsight of history. There is in effect a GD concert going on 24/7 that I am part of and that is just simply the life I've got.

Still, I'm glad I'm a deadhead and I'm not sure where this rave came from but it seemed important along the way, about being a participant as well as a historian.

Cheers

Dave

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Our freedom, in the very movements in which it asserts itself, creates budding habits which will stifle it, if it does not review itself by constant effort.

Evelyn Underhill
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Kochman
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Joined: 23 Jun 2008
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Location: Davy Jones' Locker

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 5:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like your optimism, something I am a bit short on most of the time. Your stoicism regarding your health... wow. I hope that works out for you man. One thing that this can be taken in context with is the history of treating such things pretty successfully these days.

I think your mental perspectives are quite healthy.

Your community experience must have been something.
What finally encouraged you to leave after 18 years? I am sure it is several things, but what were the major issues?
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a.j.craig



Joined: 07 Jul 2008
Posts: 359
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 6:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1. My wife wanted to leave. We had never lived a "normal" life, ie, out in the suburbs as a nuclear family, and she was just beginning her career as an independent midwife. So, we were interested in trying an alternative lifestyle.

2. The place was falling apart. About 7 years previously, we had been into acid and ecstasy experimentation in a fairly large way. What we hadn't realised was that our resident chemist was manufacturing the E in a big way, and we were supplying half the southern hemisphere, as well as trading for acid in Europe. Interpol contacted our NZ police and said, get rid of them, take them out, doesn't matter how, but do it.

They selected sexual abuse as the method of choice, and there was enough ammunition from one or two disaffected members to start the ball rolling - we had always had a fairly "no-restriction" policy on sexual activity, and the community being as it was, the models available to younger teens for being socially powerful women in the community included a degree of sexual activity that many of them adopted actively and later came to regret, though I would add that there was a huge amount of encouragement by police and police-provided counsellors to arrive at this conclusion.

(Later I was to figure as editorial advisor of a book called "First Do No Harm: The Sexual Abuse Industry", an examination of the damage being done in the name of sexual abuse counselling and therapy)

As I was one of the loudest and noisiest and slurpiest fuckers on the place, I was fortunately never an object of younger teenage lust, though there were plenty of other takers. I was also not a community leader, though I wasn't without influence. Had I been an acknowledged leader, I could still have been set up, as were a number of close friends.

Be that as it may, when the raids occurred and the arrests went down, anybody who was an ex-member or non-resident was either not charged, or had charges dropped, or was simply fined; and anybody who was a current member, and especially if they held positions of authority inside the community had the book thrown at them. Those who pleaded not guilty and attempted to defend themselves received a consistent sentence double the others.

One of my mates facing a single charge was fairly confident of beating it - it was like many of the others a constructed fabrication - but was met in the courtroom on the morning of his trial by a police officer who told him if he pleaded not guilty they had seven more charges lined up which they would lay against him, and his chances of beating the lot were fuck-all, and he'd wind up with a much bigger sentence than if he simply went down peacefully. Etc etc.

It was pretty fucking rough. I was helping defence cases by checking disclosure evidence for inconsistencies and so forth, and the stuff was riddled with set ups. Unfortunately, too, pre-trial media attention made it unlikely that any attempt to challenge evidence would have much credibility attached to it. "Young people do not tell lies" - unless they deny that anything took place. Then they are "blocking it", and it's just a matter of therapising them until they remember.

These were the days of jokes like "What is the difference between a social worker and rottweiler" Answer: If a rottweiler grabs your child you stand a good chance of getting at least some of it back." Etc.

There were regular meetings being held by police with the group of plaintiffs so as to get their stories consistent. We knew this from one girl who had been invited to take part but declined after one meeting.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, they took out the leadership over a period of about five years, and that together with the ongoing trauma for members with family and friends involved, basically made ongoing community life pretty harrowing, and ordinary members began to head back to the suburbs. And eventually we followed.

The place shut down a year or two after we left and was occupied by a few ex-members plus a whole bunch of new people, mainly new agers, druids, greenies and so forth, but in the end that fizzled too.

Many of the ex-members still form a sizeable community at large who stay in touch via birthday parties and other gatherings - I'm going to one next week in fact.

Cheers

Dave

_________________
Our freedom, in the very movements in which it asserts itself, creates budding habits which will stifle it, if it does not review itself by constant effort.

Evelyn Underhill


Last edited by a.j.craig on Tue Jul 29, 2008 3:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Kochman
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WHAT?!?
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cheesebeer



Joined: 01 Jul 2008
Posts: 1561
Location: maggies farm

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's a hell of a story, there has to be a book in there somewhere.
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a.j.craig



Joined: 07 Jul 2008
Posts: 359
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kochman wrote:
WHAT?!?


You did ask. It was one hell of an adventure, for all of the drama.

The media tends to deprive people who live in intentional communities - or even widely different cultures - of much if not most of their basic humanity. It's about the only way people can comprehend lifestyles as different from their own. They must be monsters - or gooks or natives or whatever.

But people are people, and when you live in such a radically different way, you come to an appreciation of human qualities that remain common, even to lifestyles that barely overlap. For 18 years we lived out of one bank account, ate out of one kitchen, dressed out of one wardrobe, washed out of one ablution block, drove communally owned vehicles. And so on.

We won national fashion awards for our clothes designers, we won awards in pottery and one of our town planners won a national award with his firm. We supplied the mayor of Auckland, later our governor-general, with a hat from our millinery section. Our silk dying was among the best in the country. We had a top treeman running our plant nursery. There were some very high energy and very talented people there.

A book. I don't reckon. I've seen a few people try and come to terms with what we were about and fail, even ones who have grown up in other intentional communities. We were a local development of Esalen and the encounter movement. Media have always capitalised on the sensational and emerged with a comic book end-product.

And the people themselves down the track have become divided between those who see it as a positive experience in their lives and others who run the whole Jamestown/Waco number, who bought the whole police/social worker trip, and turned themselves into victims, wounded primally and permanently. It certainly wasn't inevitable.

Anyhow.......

Cheers

Dave

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Our freedom, in the very movements in which it asserts itself, creates budding habits which will stifle it, if it does not review itself by constant effort.

Evelyn Underhill
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Kochman
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, same wardrobe... not to be a weirdo, but...

What about underwear? socks?

I mean, I was in a rather communal experience in the army... well, most of what we did was share the suffering... but we had basic things that were definitely our own private items.
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a.j.craig



Joined: 07 Jul 2008
Posts: 359
Location: New Zealand

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 3:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry, man, no relief there for you. Common wardrobe......

Actually, truth to tell, me being a large mammal of sorts and the resident teenagers having a thing about wearing huge baggy T shirts, I did take to stashing a few items just so I could have stuff that fit. And people working in town typically had personal gear to suit.

We had our own toothbrushes, but toothpaste was communal, several varieties to choose from. Razors personal but purchased communally. Some people kept their own electric razors. Many of us wore beards, in any case.

Gumboots for winter and work shoes tended to be personal too. We needed to be able to find these when they were needed.

One of the funniest things was watching the pre-schoolers selecting their own gear. Just about every one of the boys went through a time of trying out dresses to see what they were like, sometimes for weeks at a time. Then they'd move on. You could see parents really squirming at times - me included - when their son sorted out a frilly pink item for the day. Quite a lot of the men tended to wear lavalavas (sarongs) in any case.

On a slightly more personal note, we lost our first child, a daughter, Nell, at seven days old. Born with three quarters of a heart and seven weeks premature. Lived that long only because of a shunt that closes down at about 34 weeks gestation, so we had her for a week in IC ward. We brought her home and the woodworkers built a small coffin and the silk dyers lined it and she lay in the lounge always with somebody by her for a couple of days before she was cremated.

The preschoolers would come and watch and some even reached out a hand to touch. Then somebody came and took me aside to the tv room. There were a bunch of preschoolers there and with the big cushions they had fashioned a coffin and they were each taking their turn being Nell and finding out in their own terms what being dead was about. It was a powerful learning about how kids deal with their world.

Cheers

Dave

_________________
Our freedom, in the very movements in which it asserts itself, creates budding habits which will stifle it, if it does not review itself by constant effort.

Evelyn Underhill
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swamiGD80s
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Joined: 27 Jun 2008
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Location: Atlantic Beach, FL

PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:36 am    Post subject: classic thread resurrected Reply with quote

Remembering Dave from New Zealand, in this classic Sailor Pub thread...

bump.

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Kochman
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 02, 2012 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great stories... great dude.
I swapped data DVDs with this guy over thousands of miles, as well as nearly daily communication for a while when we were both going through some personal stuff.

He had such a unique, and important, perspective on things.
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