I hate to feel left out. I think it is common and now there is FOMO – fear of missing out in our language lexicon. It seems like my community knew my weakness and right away when all went to compost, I heard the word social pariah. I understand some people being angry, but a public shunning? Wow. That’s what the Amish do. And other groups, dare I say, cults.
I didn’t know until moving in that many cohousing communities are so conflict averse that conflict spews out all over the place. Ignoring problems and growing tensions does not make them go away. I read about that in Diana Leafe Christians’ book Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities which I found in our cohousing library. She gives so many excellent tools on living together and has lived in an ecovillage forever (or close to that). She also has written many articles and does workshops. I mentioned to the Conflict Resolution Team that she said if there aren’t consequences and accountability to rules and policies in cohousing, it creates a big blow up. It can be something as simple as a reminder – hey there, we didn’t get your dues this month. The team discussed it and I just read over their notes recently. They even mocked it – discussing corporate punishment. And, like everything, didn’t make any policies or decisions still.
Just like my fear of dog bites, I brought these things up early to protect others but instead it all seemed to happen to me or my family. I need to work more on my law of attraction and only focus on the good I want for my family and stop worrying about others especially in a place without reciprocity. When it all blew up, it blew up on me. All the tension and anger that was building over the months got pin pointed onto me as I became the scapegoat for EVERYTHING. Not just what I did, point out a problem and try to solve it with some help.
Pinning the problems on the scapegoat (less fun game than pinning the tail on the donkey) has its own problems. When the shamed, scarred goat runs away, now what to do? Tensions build again. They may try to find a new scapegoat because if they can blame the goat, they have no accountability.
I wonder if that’s what happened. One reason I did go away is because I kept hearing my name (and hating to hear it on zoom) and I didn’t hear anyone discuss the why of what I did or how to solve the real (more important) issue. I figured if I left, they would have to deal with it. From all I can tell, they still tried to pretend it didn’t exist and 9 months later, I have yet to see a formal policy or way forward (despite a few attempts, one where I was being pulled in again as a scapegoat). Yet, maybe there was some accountability and that’s why another family is leaving. They were in the middle of the conflict and felt beat up by a previous meeting where families were angry at them.
These are all red flags. If one person feels scapegoated and leaves the community – maybe it’s not a healthy group. If another family feels beat up before and after the scapegoat goes away, there may need to be some work. I just read a great quote this week in an article on something else (can’t even remember what) – “It takes a village to be honest.”
I also read about harassment this week and the role of bystanders. Some don’t say anything when there is sexual harassment on a job or on the street because they think it won’t make a difference, think it’s just the way it is, or fear they will make it worse. I heard that – we didn’t talk to you because we didn’t want to make it worse. Wow, why not ask? I like being talked to. I like being heard. Being ignored – that hurt. Being hung out to dry – that hurt. Not having anyone stand up and say how they really thought, even after telling me before they agreed with me or were also concerned, that hurt. No one standing up saying maybe shunning and bullying is not the way to run a cohousing community – that hurt.
So, if you aren’t talking to me, fine. I can ignore you too. I will work on healing from the whole mess. And try to warn others – watch how the community treats each other. What they do to one person, they will do to another. And it could be you.