Re: How do we hold each other accountable?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Mon, 26 Jul 2010 08:30:36 -0700 (PDT)

On Jul 26, 2010, at 9:34 AM, Eris Weaver wrote:


Is it just easier to focus on work because it's easier to quantify? Or is it
related to our culture's focus on work?

I think they are more quantifiable but also that if no one else does them, "I" have to. They directly impinge on my life. I can't avoid the dishes sitting all over the kitchen or the lawn not being mowed. Or the bills not paid, or the trees not trimmed.


I worry less about
whether I make it to all the work days but whether I was patient enough with
Will's slowed speech after his stroke; have I been helpful enough with
JoEllen's brain-injured son; have I appropriately held confidentiality,
avoided malicious gossip; do I spend enough time with the kids; etc.

These would fall under consciousness raising, I think but one person's patient is another person's condescending. And people do call each other on these -- or remind them -- or exclude them -- or intervene. There is such a broad perception of what is acceptable that I wouldn't even want it written down.

When we first moved in, there were 2-3 people whose concept of cohousing was that it was personal growth, like group therapy. We had a meeting in which (some) people talked about things they wanted to change about themselves and all of us were supposed to hold them accountable for. They were written down by the group facilitators as "pledges" on big, long piece of white butcher paper and hung in the front hall.

I was mortified and asked that they be moved. I didn't want my friends to believe that I had moved in to such a place or to be confronted with the list everyday myself. It would be like having the 12 steps or the Lord's Prayer engraved on the wall of my home (only not so well written).

Consequences for these kinds of things, written down, could get pretty weird.

When I am really steamed at one of my neighbors, it isn't usually about their work participation. I am really peeved if someone doesn't come to meetings until the final discussion of an issue that they care about and
then tries to block it.

I get peeved that people don't come to meetings, who don't even think about them. I missed a meeting yesterday because I was distracted by the social events and personal requirements of two people who almost never go to meetings. I was pissed and still can't believe it happened. I really wanted to be there and miss having heard the concerns of everyone on the issues to be discussed.

On the other hand, if we required people to come to meetings, we would be held hostage by those who think other people's issues are trivial and we shouldn't have meetings anyway. I would love consequences for missing meetings but I'm not sure what they would be. Everything seems to be in the category of "we didn't set that as a requirement before we moved in so we can't now." And it's illegal anyway.

Also "the end of the discussion" also relates to the process being used and whether one agrees with it when it isn't part of the community process. I have great disagreements with people who treat consensus decisions like votes and try to get agreements from people one by one outside of meetings rather than having full group discussion. We are in DC so the influence of the way things are done on the hill is more pervasive, I think, than other places. I view consensus as a full group process that is essential to community building and understanding of other people's needs. If it is treated like an individual voting process, let's just vote.

How do I set my own parameters for when the end of the process is? I see it beginning when others see it ending.

Ditto if someone isn't following the carport rules
(your car must fit in the carport). I am the major enforcer of the
trampoline jumping rules. So many other places we could talk about
participation, responbility, accountability.

These are more specific problems that we do address when they are raised. Too often, however, people suffer in silence or the rules are so unclear no one knows if they can be enforced. Right now a neighbor has stood a table that my grandchildren use outside my door on end so she can put her baby's walker there. Irritation? Yes. Do I have a right to put my table there? Who knows. It's in front of my unit, not hers, but technically common space. Do I want a conversation about it? No. Not another conversation. But eventually, I will have to. The expansion ability (as well as justification for doing it) of people with babies and young children is infinite.

Sharon Villines, Washington DC
There is a break in the heat today but when the heat index is 110, humidity 85%, walk fast to get out of the sun or walk slowly to avoid falling over and getting burned on the sidewalk.

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