The first few days we were on the farm, I noticed several conflicts. The details aren’t important, but mainly they were between various workers on the farm. I started thinking about my vision of us creating this beautiful sustainable intentional community with conscious agreements and started berating myself for not being more proactive in preventing these conflicts. What proceeded was a conversation along these lines:
Linda (critic): Great job. You all think you can just come here and insert additional cash into the economy (through the workers’ salaries), allowing them to purchase more things, and allowing them to purchase more alcohol and you think that won’t throw off the balance, change the order of things, and potentially create conflict, disarray, greed, etc?
Linda (conscious community coach and facilitator): Well, it doesn’t have to be like that. Perhaps we should have started with some laying the groundwork for teambuilding. Setting some guidelines for communication, creating a conscious relationship, creating safe space.
Linda (critic): looks at Linda CCCF in disbelief You aren’t serious! These guys come here to do physical labor, plant trees, cut grass etc. They didn’t come here for your western liberal touchy feely Stuart Smalley games. You really don’t think you are going to bring them into a circle and talk about what we need to create safe spaces here and encourage them to open up about their feelings, do you?
Linda (CCCF): Um … Well?… I don’t know? … Maybe in a culturally appropriate way?
Linda (critic): Bwaaahaaaahaaaa!!!! Culturally appropriate my omatako!
Linda (CCCF): Yeah, I know they are rural Angolans and they only asked for a job on the farm, planting fruits and veggies. They didn’t ask for one of the farm employers to be this western liberal with ideas about non-violent communication and breaking down the imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. pause But maybe in a greater cosmic sense they did? Maybe our worlds were meant to collide? Maybe in a previous life we agreed to meet up in this situation and they ARE ready and wanting to participate in the revolution?
Coming back to work. Coming back to the present after this conversation and observing the following events which are perhaps “culturally appropriate conscious community building”?
- I visited the farm in early February and met all but one of the current staff members. When I returned in early April, I briefly met the staff member I missed in early February. We quickly started working together, chopping some grass. Shortly thereafter he stopped me from working and initiated a sort of “getting to know you” conversation. I then realised that our quick, “nice to meet you” was not sufficient for him and it was rude of me to just jump into work so quickly. I appreciated his initiative.
When Claudio was in Namibia in February, he bought matching uniforms for all the employees. I personally thought it was a bit silly, as I really don’t care what the workers are wearing. Their own clothes are fine to me. I’ve personally always been very opposed to wearing a uniform myself. I want to choose my clothes. But the look of pride that all the workers got when they put on their brand new matching uniforms took me by surprise! Maybe Claudio was on to something when he got those uniforms!
- One of the workers mentioned to me that we should plant flowers along one of the fence lines. “Sure” I unenthusiastically thought, “some day, we can do that. Flowers are good for distracting and repelling pests.” Later, he showed up with a few cuttings from a colorful tree. All the other workers got very excited and talked about plants they had that they could bring cuttings from which would beautify the fence line. One very excitedly told me that we really need to plant a line of trees along the entrance road, so that people can see the trees as they enter. It hit me, “Of course, they want to work in a place they can be proud of. And they want to take pride in knowing that they contributed to the beauty of it, not just through their labor, but through their ideas and material contributions.”
These are culturally appropriate teambuilding activities. I just need to learn to listen, observe and be more aware and present to these moments. And I actually think these moments are happening all the time.