|Building Better Neighbours?||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: Collaborative Housing Society (cohosocweb.apc.org)|
|Date: Fri, 20 Oct 1995 10:26:38 -0500|
In response to Jerry Callan (and others), I agree with all that you're saying, well almost all. I have not seen much evidence around here that many people interested in cohousing *have* tried to "fix" things where they are. I say this because of the blank stares of amazement whenever anyone (me) suggests that groups invite their neighbours to coho meetings. I also see a tendancy for groups to ignore their future neighbours, unless reminded, and even then it's often more for political expediency than any desire to connect. I won't go into the what and why I believe this to be so, except to say that in a society that sees households moving every 4.3 years, with a long history of always searching for the new frontier (in fact, the founding myth of the US, and Canada too, to a lesser degree, was about making a new life, starting from scratch - for many good reasons, to be sure), it is not too surprising that we tend to prefer to go out and build a utopia rather than deal with the mess we are a part of. I will go on with this though. A recent study by the Merck Family Foundation called "Yearning for Balance: Views of Americans on Consumption, Materialism and the Environment" (try merck [at] igc.apc.org for a copy) offered an interesting portrait of our lives at this moment in time. One of the most interesting findings is that, when asked to rate the importance of certain "guiding principles" to *their* lives, responses were Responsibility (to others) 92% Family Life 91% Friendship 85% Generosity 72% Religious Faith 66% Prosperity and Wealth 58% When asked to rate the importance of these guiding principles to *other Americans* - ie., NOT ME, Responsibility 28% Family Life 45% Friendship 46% Generosity 20% Religious Faith 18% Prosperity and Wealth 58% In other words, you're a money-grubbing cold-hearted irresponsible heathen, and I'm not. I sometimes suspect that cohousing is as much about circling the wagons as it is about making a better society. I also suspect that the above attitudes reflect the incredible gap we have between our lives and the lives of those around us. We don't trust each other anymore, we don't understand each other anymore, we just don't want to know each other anymore, unless we can do it safely, All I'm trying to say is, cohousing may very well offer the chance to connect and get to know each other again, because it builds in the physical spaces where we can start to interact - get to know each other - again. But if the only way to do this is by going out and building new places, well, that would be very disappointing to me. That's why I spend most of my time lately trying to develop the tools we need here and now so that we can have some say in what goes on in our neighbours backyard, and yes, perhaps even have some influence over who buys the house next door - things like shared ownership instruments, access to pools of financing so that a neighbourhood group can buy up homes as they come up for sale, and finding ways to (re)create a sense of place so that people know they're moving into a neighbourhood, not just a house (hoping this will scare away the hermits and malcontents!) In the end, I think it just requires vision - a burning soul. I have seen it happen here in Toronto, and suspect that's what got N-Street started, though you can ask them about that. Believe me, I think cohousing as an idea is one of the best things to come along in decades, something that has the potential to really do something about the mess we've all gotten ourselves into, whether economically, environmentally, or, of course socially. If that means actually building a new and *hopefully* better neighbourhood, well, so be it. But we built our suburbs, lost our porches (here we go again) and generally disconnected ourselves from each other for a reason, and until we come to grips with that, I don't really believe that just rearranging our houses will be any sustainable solution. Maybe I'll stop using the cohousing word to describe my point of view - in some ways I already have. Because to me, "cohousing" is just people, not the *right* people, just people working together and understanding that having a good neighbourhood is the *only* (IMO) way to have a good life. I will admit that I have moved around a lot myself, and do not yet feel that we've found the place we want to call home, but that hasn't stopped us from trying to make this place a good neighbourhood, even if just in the little things like saying hello. . . Russell Mawby Toronto cohosoc [at] web.apc.org
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