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Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Time Event
3:06p
Fox 9: The Duty to Be a Complete Being
Note: I got some help organizing this and with grammar, but there are probably still mistakes. They are all my thoughts, though.

The Duty to Being a Complete Being

Context:

As some of you know, I was born and grew up in an ecovillage. It still exists out there. It is not a utopia or a paradise. It is just a village my folks built exactly how they wanted it, and where they invited people or let people come and see what it was all about, and those who had something to add got respect, while those who were troublemakers or added nothing to the village went away.

There were debates and fights and disagreements, but overall the village worked because of four reasons. One, we were regular people who had no qualms about friendship or family. Well, Kindred just have to deal with that part.

But the second reason was that we had a powerful, passionate feeling that the village was roughly as important as our individual lives. Sure, you could feel it was not quite as important, and as long as you worked and didn’t cause more problems than you solved, that was OK. And you could feel it was even more important than your life, like my parents and some others did. But you had to agree at least mostly that the village WAS your life, because nobody gave it to you, you made it yourself. Even if you were new, once you believed in the village and gave to it, you were making it, and so it was yours, it was YOU.

The third reason the village worked was that it was better than any other option. It was basically a reaction to everything my family didn’t like about normal cities, even what they didn’t like about other communes and hippy enclaves etc. Whenever it was not better, everyone pitched in to make it better again.

And finally the fourth reason is that nobody there had to worry about eating or living. We had enough, usually we had plenty. When your stomach is growling and you’re not sure how you’re going to manage to pay rent this month, you don’t care about your community, you start caring only about you, and when everyone does that, the community gets worse, so your life gets worse, especially if you’re near the bottom of the totem pole to begin with. But when your food and shelter is secure, and nobody’s itching to kick you down the street in two days, you can focus on the community with a clear mind and with more of your time.

Putting all these reasons together, you get a strong sense of unity, the kind that makes you want to work like hell to fix the village when it gets flooded up to the gables or burns down or something else. You want to save it because it’s your people, it’s your life, it’s better than any other place around, and you were safe there. Why wouldn’t you work like hell to keep a place like that going?

In conclusion, that’s my background, and how I came up with my position and mission. I didn’t even mention my time in Charlotte, but I was so busy learning and surviving there that I hardly looked up to see how things really worked.
Position and Mission

I suppose you could say I have a Collectivist attitude about my Requiem. It’s not that I don’t have my own personal and private existence, it’s just that I know for a fact I can’t really live my life without a place safe and stable and free enough to live it in. So as you’ll see, my position and mission has a lot to do with how a society should or should not work. It is split up into five parts.

1. Status is not everything.
• There, I said it. Status is not everything. But status is not nothing, either. Do-Nothings and serious troublemakers (I mean breach-makers and psycho killers) should be at the bottom of Kindred communities, because they’re nothing but leeches and breaches. If they don’t change their ways, they should be kicked out. But people who contribute, even if it’s just to study something quietly in their corner, something they can share with the group every once in a while, are not Do-Nothings. Artists and craftspeople are not Do-Nothings. If they refuse to pitch in occasionally or don’t help when there’s a crisis, then they are. On the other hand, people who don’t really help out, but who keep a good herd so we barely know they’re around, those people may not be very high up in status, but at least they’re not leeches. If they’re not draining from me and they’re not bothering me, they can be in their little mouse hole and why should that bother me or anyone else?
• So who should be higher up? That’s simple. People who work for the collective, especially the ones who pitch in even when there’s no crisis, the ones who give their time just because.
• And who should be higher than them? People who lead or organize the others. Who are these people? The ones who have the skill and/or the experience, and also the willingness to serve the others by sacrificing more of their time and energy into the community.
• And that’s it. Status shouldn’t be the end-all. It’s just the result of dedication and effort. Not everyone is going to want the higher status because it means more responsibility, and the payback isn’t extreme. Those who don’t want the higher status shouldn’t be mocked or bullied or humiliated for it.
• Mission: Recognize people’s efforts and reward them with respect, but never treat status like a religion. Never lord my status over people. Defend or guide people who run into status problems and see if they can’t be saved. Kick out leeches and breaches if they can’t be turned.

2. Strangers, nomads, and the Unaligned are not scum.
• A stranger is someone you don’t know. So learn who they are before you judge them. Nomads are people who had trouble finding a place to stay, or didn’t want one. Maybe they never stuck around anywhere because other cities made them unhappy. Maybe they could stick with us. Many Unaligned are young. Being young shouldn’t be a crime. Being unsure or confused shouldn’t be a crime. Even being aloof or individualistic shouldn’t be a crime. Maybe the Unaligned can’t be trusted all the way, but who can? And if you can deal with a kindred who has ideas completely the opposite of yours, then you can deal with an Unaligned who has different ideas than both of you. Strangers, nomads, and the Unaligned are potential allies.
• Mission: Make a real effort to welcome and include newcomers and give them a chance. Keep an eye on them, but let them prove they are worth something. In time, they’ll show what they really are.

3. It’s not just up to other people to watch what they say and not rile up your Beast, it’s also up to you to keep your Beast in check and let insults slide.
• Maybe it’s because I’m a haunt, and I’ve spent time both in the Big Below, where shocking and goading people is a common hobby, and Up Top Elysiums, where the same people who are horrified of being insulted sometimes are the ones dishing it out the most, but I have a thick skin for insults. Most folk are ready to flip out at the wrong tone of voice or a cuss word. Societies that obsess over insults are pretty much kiln-baked hierarchies, hard as rock, where nobody is free to experiment or speak freely or jostle things around, because everyone is afraid of slipping one measly rung on the ladder.
• In societies with loose status based more on what you’ve done for the group or how well you keep the Secret and keep the kine healthy, insults shouldn’t be the thing that gets talked about every other night, like who insulted who and what they’re going to do about it, and who apologized, and all that. That’s all wasted energy. And either it’s just two Kindred who have different cultures and ways of being, or it’s two Kindred who don’t like each other and are needling at each other to get one up on them. None of that really matters in the grand scheme of things.
• Instead of focusing on who’s insulting you, you should focus on what insults you, and what you can do to stop being so sensitive. Yes, that means whipping the Beast if you have to. The way I see it, if we magically increased everyone’s sensitivity to insults by ten times, we’d all rip each other to pieces. But if we lowered our sensitivity to insults, we’d get along better. So it’s not the “rude” people who are the bigger problem, it’s the sensitive people. Does that mean there should just be a rudeness free-for-all? Of course not. Someone who’s always rude and starting fights is a troublemaker, and I already talked about what to do with them.
• Mission: Besides looking inside yourself and working to control your Beast, spend time around all kinds of regulars, observing and hanging with them. Watch how easily modern kine can joke and elbow each other and make jabs and cut-downs. Notice how friends and close associates do it more than strangers, almost as much as enemies, sometimes. Notice how they react. Study how and why modern kine DO get insulted. Imitate.

4. No useful kindred should have to pay to eat or have shelter.
• I wish this one didn’t need much explanation. It’s a no-brainer, and I’ve never heard a good argument against it. There are not very many of us. We have the space, we have the resources. Whoever thinks Kindred should pay corvée or a tax or something just to exist is basically saying that they don’t care if Kindred die and they don’t care if a starving or homeless Kindred causes a breach. Taxes on top of regular city work is pretty much the main reason people go Unaligned or Anarch, and although Unaligned aren’t scum, the more of them running around alone and making babies, the higher the chance the Secret will be Out or the food will run out.
• Let's not forget that Kindred don't have a choice about being homeless. It's not an option, not even for 12 hours. We can't just crash somewhere. If a regular loses her home, she has a bad year. If a kindred does, she dies.
• There are so few of us. And so many of them, and their toys and tools are getting better and better at finding us. There are hunters and ghoul dogs and other critters. Let’s stop wasting time stomping on the little guy and making him scramble to serve lords, and start figuring out how to stay ten steps ahead of the regulars and the other critters.
• Mission: Offer land and feeding grounds to all who will chip in. Move them around or change things up to keep the resources even and healthy, but if you’re going to make someone pay to exist, you might as well exile them, so just do THAT if it comes down to it. Freedom or exile. No exploitation. This is an example of a mission where we DON’T imitate most regulars, because they are terrible at this.

5. Existence is more than just survival.
• Art is not bad. Reading is not bad. Music is not bad. Plays and poetry are not bad. Socializing, and I mean REAL socializing, not hen-pecking, is not bad. Enjoying the night and exploring the land and trying to feel something good and new are not bad things to do. What are we, just monsters? Nothing else? Is every night for the rest of our existence just about foraging and storing food and keeping out predators and beating our chests like animals? I hope not, because if it is, I’m going to go get a nice tan, thank you very much.
• So I’m not some dazzling culture maven, but I know one thing. I know that civilizations are judged not so much by how they built themselves but by what they did with their time when they weren’t trying to put food in their mouths or a roof over their heads or clothes on their backs. All the stuff that “isn’t necessary” is the stuff that keeps us from wanting to cut off our own heads. You don’t build an ecovillage just to have one, or to see whether you can make more energy than you use. You do it so you can have a better life with enough time to put on plays and have dances and readings and sculpt and fence and hike. Or to study and learn and explore.
• Ever notice how the Kindred who say art and culture are worthless are usually the ones with palaces full of the stuff, and brains full of history and philosophy? Ever notice how they're usually the ones who care about what people are wearing and how to "orate", and make fun of uneducated people? They love that that stuff exists, but they look down on whoever wants to dedicate their life to encouraging or making it.
• Mission: Again, look to regulars and imitate. When the going gets tough, they cut back on art and play and pure studying, but they don’t cut it back all the way. Might as well work in a mine all night and drink your juice from a tube. Encourage the artists and intellectuals to help make existence enjoyable even while they chip in to keep the Secret and the land stable.

This has been my thoughts on the duty to be a complete being. Thank you for reading.

Euphemie Amy Latchford, childe of Malenfant, personal assistant to the Dame Victoria.

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