!\Re: How do we hold each other accountable?
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 2010 20:50:58 -0700 (PDT)

On Jul 22, 2010, at 2:13 PM, Eris Weaver wrote:

Part one of my musings on this topic: http://erisweaver.blogspot.com/

This is a great post! So timely, and so relevant to approximately half my frustrations with cohousing, which are not so many but I expect more of cohousing.

I'm a can-do person. I believe that pretty much anything can be done. But approximately 80% of the population spends all their waking hours figuring out reasons why nothing can be done -- even in cohousing, which totally surprises me. Why would a group of people after organizing 43 households of mostly strangers to build a multi-million- dollar housing project that will be governed by consensus and maintained by unpaid labor believe nothing can be done?

Well, maybe the unpaid labor part didn't work out so well but here we come to the point of Aris's post:

... these groups spend endless hours coming to consensus on complicated policies and guidelines about every possible aspect of community life, they are extremely reluctant to build in consequences for noncompliance with those policies.

When she says "reluctant" she is being diplomatic. We don't just leave out the consequences, we do anything we can possibly do to pretend we don't need them. That's why the complicated policies and guidelines are complicated. It's an effort to convince by detail.

Whenever I say something totally anti-cohousing like suggesting some totally simple, straightforward minor detective work to figure out who is switching the DVD, VCR, and cable connections so no one else can watch TV unless they are a cable wizard, I'm accused of wanting to persecute and shame people. To put them in jail, the last said with that nasal sneering typical of the teenager who was probably switching the cables. All I wanted to do was to find out what this person needed and provide it so the other 59 of us would be happy. More sneering, "I'm not a cop."

Eris expressed it so clearly:

When discussing consequences for noncompliance with cohousing agreements, over and over I heard the phrase "I don't want us to be policing each other." It is as though our only mental model for holding each other accountable is Cop vs. Criminal.


Functioning without playing Cops and Robbers: The Therapy Approach and The Avoidance Approach.

Therapy Approach: Robbers are just unhappy lost souls who are having difficulty connecting. With understanding good will triumph. The scales will fall from their eyes, their hearts will melt, and they will wash their own dishes. I'm not a cop.

Avoidance Approach: Robbers are robbers. Robbers are schmucks, but what can we do? Send them to jail? Put them in prison? Nothing can be done. Ignore the dishes. I'm not a cop.

Real therapists have consequences. Pay your bill or you can't come here anymore. Having consequences doesn't mean we have to pretend to be helpless to avoid rancor and hostility, or even guilt. Everyone can still smile and enjoy each other's company. No one has to feel bad. No cops, no robbers. Simple transaction. We agreed, you choose. Option One or Option Two. Or we can negotiate a third option, but we are taking care of this obligation to the community, as we all agreed.

One thing forming cohousing communities learn or they never become built, is that if you want to borrow money from a bank you have to agree to a lot of consequences in case you don't pay it back. When the zoning board turns down petitions for zoning changes, cohousing communities that got built didn't say, "What can we do? We aren't cops. We can't take them to jail. We can't do anything." They figured out what to do and got built.

Why do the same people who changed the world by surmounting all obstacles in order to build their totally improbable communities, then allow cops and robbers to be played against them by their own neighbors. You call me a robber, I'll call you a cop. And everyone is paralyzed.

Sharon Villines
"The truth is more important than the facts." Frank Lloyd Wright

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