It’s High Time We Got Together.
(c) 2012, Davd
“Jim, watching the cowboys in the final days [of a long cattle drive] … saw things clearly. If this particular group could be held together, each man lending strength to his companion, they could build themselves a good life. … but when they broke up and each had to fend for himself, troubles might well overtake them.”(James A. Michener, 1974. Centennial. NY: Random House.)1
James Michener (as Centennial‘s four pages of Acknowledgments indicate) researched his books long and thoroughly; and they can be treated as geologically, historically, and sociologically sound. What Michener saw and tells his readers via the “Jim Lloyd” character, is a good lesson for us all2: Get together, co-operate, and you’ll build yourself and your buddies3, a better life than you’re likely to achieve alone or in a bureaucratic organization.
Fifty or sixty years ago, groups of buddies were an important part of many men’s lives, but usually secondary to marriage and sometimes also to “extended families” (networks of kinfolk); and for most men born in the first quarter of the 20th Century, that worked well enough. I was born late in the second quarter of the 20th Century, and for us and especially for men born in the second half, marriage hasn’t been so trustworthy. There ought to be a better way—and for many, co-operative groups of men can be that better way.
Co-operation is natural to us as men; and in the biased legal and bureaucratic milieu of the early 21st Century, i’m not going to try to assess how natural it is or isn’t, to women. Present-day civil law gives women incentives to exploit men rather than co-operate with us. Millions upon millions of women have seized those incentives—rejecting co-operation and choosing exploitation. As a matter of probability, trusting marriage was a fairly good “bet” in the 1950s, and now it’s a mediocre to poor one. Betting on other men and our co-operative nature hasn’t been degraded, while marriage has.
If you’re married to a compatible, trustworthy woman, don’t blame her for the overall decline in marriage; do count yourself lucky (where in the 1950s, your situation would have been normal); and remember that brotherly love and loyalty do not conflict with marriage vows. A genuinely compatible wife realizes that her husband’s buddies strengthen him and make him a better husband.
If you’re not, don’t think you need to find one…. there is an alternative: Sharing a house, a workplace, a “set of wheels” with a few like-minded men.
spending a lot less on housing [on “wheels”] than you do alone (enjoying economic efficiency);
sharing chores rather than having to do everything for yourself (more efficient use of your chore time, and more fun than working alone);
having more influence on your hours and terms of work, and sharing the decisions about hours and
terms with friends rather than being subject to a bureaucracy;
having friends to eat, ride, and do chores with; and very important, supporting one another
psychologically. Living with like-minded men, working with like-minded men, you’ll become more confident, more comfortable speaking from and advocating men’s interests. (You’ll also refine your understanding of men’s outlooks and philosophy, listening to the others.)
The efficiencies can be impressive: Four men sharing a house might each spend a quarter to half as much as he would on an apartment rented or bought “alone.” Four men sharing one car and one pickup or van, spend much less “on their wheels” even if each man travels a little further than he would if he used a car of his own—and can drive the kind of vehicle the trip calls for, most of the time; and larger vehicle sharing groups can do better still4. Men who find farming or house-building, publishing or sawmilling appealing—just to name a few of the many kinds of work that can be done efficiently by a small group—can incorporate themselves as a co-operative and set their own hours.
I myself am “a man of faith” (specifically, a Christian) with 94 acres, a house “that will do to start”, a prayer garden and about two dozen apple trees [mostly still very young, two bearing and four just beginning to produce fruit], and most of the land forested. I am old enough to be aware of my own mortality, and would rather share my “property” with, and pass it on to, like-minded men; than sell it or have it sold when i die. More about that “below”… these few facts, plus the obvious fact that i’m a writer, will give a first indication what “like-minded” means in my case.
In “posting” this blog, i’m undertaking to enter into group-sharing myself—and also to help men who wouldn’t fit well in a household with me, whether because of personal style, geographic ties, different faith or philosophy of life, work skills, etc. to team up with compatible fellows. Sorting out what men are “like-minded” in the ways that matter for a particular kind of teaming-up, is important. My educated guess, though, is that quite many men can at least envision doing that… so the next few paragraphs will be for reassurance-by-example on the “ownership” question.
The radical-looking part of what i’m advocating is group ownership. It is not really new; in fact, family group ownership is written into the Mosaic Laws (set out, along with much story-telling about the history of Moses’ people, in the first five books of the Bible5… over 3,000 years ago.) The Benedictine Order [communities of monks and nuns in many countries] is over 1000 years old and still going strong—its communities own their land and buildings as groups and the monks are individually paupers6. So do the Hutterites, an Anabaptist Protestant sect that is over 400 years old.
Co-operatives are another form of group ownership, one that isn’t linked to any particular faith or religion. Not long ago—perhaps still—Europe’s best appliance manufacturer was a Basque co-operative in northern Spain. Last time i looked, housing co-operatives provided the best apartments for the rent charged in Thunder Bay and in Vancouver’s “False Creek” neighbourhood.
Group ownership doesn’t necessarily prevent members from having personal wealth. Monks and Hutterites don’t have significant personal wealth; most co-operative members do have, as do “oblates” associated with monasteries [a little more about oblates in the postscript].
Notice that co-operatives, cloisters, and Hutterite communities all can have lifespans much longer than any one man’s. The group can last for centuries, while members grow old and die and new members come in. What i know as a sociologist tells me that your “legacy” and mine are more secure in a good group than in Civil Law (as most readers who’ve suffered divorces they didn’t want, will agree from painful experience.)
College fraternities own their “houses” as a group; and especially around universities where there are no fraternities7, groups of students get together to rent houses and share them, thus having better kitchen and social space than they could afford if renting to live alone, and some efficiency gains from shared cooking and cleaning tasks. (“Which goes to show”, that group ownership doesn’t have to mean a lifetime commitment; as large housing co-operatives also show, though most people who live in co-operative housing stay longer than a student working for a degree.)
If you are not really satisfied with your life situation, then, it might be a good idea to consider how much it could improve if you do find several like-minded men and team up—for housing, for wheels, for work, and if you’re a man of Faith, for prayer and reflection.
So for those who might be interested—how do we go about it?
I have some experience hosting one- and two-man retreats and sharing a house with a younger man i met through our work. I’ve also lived for three weeks in a monastery among the monks and Novices; and that experience, at least as much as sharing my house for about as many months knowing it would not be for years, convinced me that group ownership works well, and will work for me personally.
The key seems to be like-minded, which means more than just androcentric, and much “less” than total agreement on everything. I expect that the way to work out what men are like-minded enough to live, work and-or “ride” together will be by exchanging e-mails, then talking on the ‘phone, then meeting. That’s how i came to spend three weeks in one monastery and a day in another; and how my retreat guests came to visit me8.
Michener’s Centennial story ends with a wealthy rancher and a successful singer giving thanks that they live out in the sticks, where they can walk the natural earth, and be who they are. They are far from being the same in work or family or art—but they are like-minded enough to each lend strength to the other, and build themselves a better life than they could have alone, or working for strangers.
Everyman.ca has set up a write-in address [project-co At everyman dot ca] especially for group formation—and that includes:
men who don’t belong to a group “sharing important resources”, and would like to look into the possibility;
groups that are looking for interested men who might join them; as well as
stories from existing groups9.
Please let us know your name, what kind[s] of sharing might interest you, your story if you have one to tell, and where in Canada you’re located now. (If you’re a Canadian living outside Canada who might come back to participate, say that. At this point, i doubt i should offer to try to be, or find, the secretary-co-ordinator for men who want to organize in other countries; but if you’d like to be the secretary-co-ordinator for men in another country, go ahead and write, i just don’t know at this early date how that might develop.)
We recommend you give your age, “trade”[or profession], postal as well as your e-mail address; and say whatever else you believe might be helpful.
Over to you—specifically, to those of you who are interested in the possibility, are starting group-sharing projects with room for more members, or have stories of group-owned homes, wheels and workplaces to tell.
We don’t want to leave married men out of the picture.
Some of you reading this have good marriages. Count yourselves lucky; and to repeat: I’m not trying to break up marriages—nor leave married men out of the picture. I know that married men have long been associated with monasteries as “oblates” who go to the monastery for a few days, sometimes as long as a few weeks, once or more each year; and i have hosted two men for retreats here where i am now (and hosted two different men at my smaller “prayer garden” property in BC.) Quite a few years ago now, i had a friend who was an “oblate” of a Hutterite community rather than a monastery, and he took me there for a day visit—which i enjoyed, and where i learned a lot. It ought to be possible for households of men owning as a group, to include married friends analogously.
Of course, workplace co-operatives can include married as well as single men.
Those of you who don’t have good marriages, and especially those of you who suffered divorce as i did years ago10—you don’t have to risk the bad bet that is civil marriage today, to have fellowship in your home and the social efficiencies that a household of 5-10 men can enjoy compared to someone “living alone.”
1. Page references from an undated Fawcett Crest paperback. The text goes on to name the weaknesses of two men and imply that only two or three of the dozen are formed strongly enough to [in a customary phrase, make it on their own.] The story of the drive on which these men (some of them teenage boys when hired) formed a co-operative group, spans pp. 526-596.
2. I doubt the character “Jim Lloyd” was given the author’s first name, by accident.
3. I looked up “buddy”, and the Libre-Office thesaurus states that it is a colloqauial form of brother—that buddies are men who treat one another as brothers but do not have a parent in common. That’s just about perfect for my meaning.
4. “Going shopping” usually calls for a car or van inside which it’s easy to lock up a large volume of purchases. Buying bulky building materials, big appliances, or hauling manure, sand, and gravel, calls for a pickup.
Because of the complicated requirements of insurance, the likelihood of making many driving trips together, and the dependence of maintenance costs on time and rust as well as on distance and wear, it is very difficult to estimate whether men sharing vehicles will spend half, or how much less than half, relative to each having one vehicle “personally”. Imaginably, a man who doesn’t drive much would spend less than one-fifth as much.
Vehicle-sharing co-operatives probably have an optimal size of 10-25 men, sometimes more. You’re not likely to find a house that will shelter that many—so two to five co-operative houses grouped fairly close together, may be the best basis for a vehicle-sharing co-operative.
5. What the Mosaic Laws (Torah) specify, is lineage ownership—that’s one reason why the Jubilee was included; to return land to the lineage it belonged to.
6. I believe that Buddhist monks and nuns also own their cloisters as groups; but that is an educated guess. Any Buddhist reader who knows the specifics, please inform us.
7. Fraternities are commoner in the USA than in Canada. I have heard that the University of Western Ontario, the University of Toronto, and McGill University have fraternities; and that a “functional equivalent” exists around the University of British Columbia.
8. I met the man with whom i shared my house in BC, in person at work, before we talked on the ‘phone or wrote e-mails; and that’s another valid way to proceed.
9. If you now live in an all-men household, share one or more vehicles with other men, or are in a men’s group-owned workplace, we’d like to read about it
10. I follow an Orthodox Christian doctrine as it was taught to me, which demands (as many other varieties of Christianity demand or urge) that any divorced Christian, even if a victim rather than a perpetrator of the divorce, refrain from pursuing the possibility of remarriage and abstain from “sex” and dating. So for me, men who are sexually abstinent are more like-minded than men who are sexually active, and Christian men are more like-minded than men of other faiths or no faith. I don’t condemn men who are Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim … or sexually active—my Faith teaches that mere men should not judge (Matt 7: 1-2; Luke 6: 37-38)