There is this need that alternative-type people have of looking for a community of ‘People Like Us’. Maybe this is a need that everyone has but it is more noticeable in the alternative crowd because they are a small minority. Me and my wife were on this search when we, long ago, took our three children out of school. The need was to quickly find other people who had taken their children out of school and then to quickly become friends with them so that quickly our children would have other children to play with. Let me tell you a small story about the end to that search. We, confused new homeschoolers, were in a weekend meeting of people who were all talking about homeschooling on an internet forum. It was a full day meeting on a farm outside Bangalore and in the second half after lunch something struck me as odd and I asked this very vocal and passionate young man if his child/ children were homeschooled. He said he wasn’t married and didn’t have any children but in the course of time when they appeared he would definitely homeschool them. He was very sure about that. We saw that a community of homeschooler ‘People Like Us’ wouldn’t happen and we decided to go it alone!
However, our need to look for alternative-types of ‘People Like Us’ went on for a long time. We visited Auroville, we visited a large community that was being started near Bhopal, we went and spent time at many enthusiastic organic farming experiments. We didn’t find any ‘People Like Us’. We realised that this may be because we are really weird. Because it looked like many people were finding people like themselves. And some of these communities stayed together for longish times before they seemed to inevitably (a) lose their energy or (b) mostly became ‘vayuranilam amritamatedham bhasmantam shariram’, in other words vanished without a trace. I also know of some people who gave the better part of their lives to movements that ended messily. These people, as we can expect, continue to be very bitter about their experience.
Now the problem before me is that all the workshops of SIDH attract a certain type of ‘People Like Us’ and I am sure that communities built around this idea are not sustainable. I am still thinking about it, meanwhile my mantra is what a blogger I follow often says: ‘Building community is learning to live with the stupid idiot next door!’ I kind of believe that is exactly how it is. What do you think?