In the quest for a devoted worker-pool, several ideas were proposed, and most were rejected for fear of lacking reliability or viability in the projected permanence of those enrolled. Given that paychecks for given hours worked will be relatively low for hard-labour, and given that responsibilities such as housing, utilities, clothing and fundamental grocery expenses. The aforementioned inclusions are worked out, logistically, as deductions from the given hourly wage of the workers, reducing the effective purchasing power of the workers to spending for luxuries-only and not much else.
Many proponents of the ecovillage project have suggested hiring graduated post-secondary students to work with the project, those who have something to prove and those who wish to make a difference and apply a given degree or trade to a project like ours. The challenge to this direction is the often inundation of student loans which can overburden students with the obligation to reduce those loan amounts, and the established salary not likely be able to effectively accommodate these expenses. That said, some of these persons may be willing to participate.
Second are ‘hippies’ as some individuals have referred to the type of people. Those who wish to abandon the ‘evils’ of Western Culture and return to a simpler state of life. These people need not be religious fundamentalists, such as the Anabaptist (examples include quakers, mennonites and hutterites) peoples, but while some people are professionals, they are seldom in sufficient quantity and desire to relocate that we require. Our site is, afterall, nearly a hundred kilometers from the nearest settlement of over 500 citizens, and the isolation may be too much for some environmental activists. Those who would wish to come, already have set and established opinions on the operation of a permaculture farm, and the differences of opinions may cause unnecessary tensions that we would all rather avoid. That said, some of these, too, may be lining up to participate and be willing to play well with others.
A third group that have been discussed are those who have spent their entire lives living the daily grind in a large center, those who have retired and desire a simpler existence. Those who have spent their lives in the concrete jungle, who have grown wary of the noise, the population, pollution and the hurry of living within those particular confines. Many of these people already have considerable nesteggs, those who have already raised children and have those obligations dealt with, and wish to ‘retire in peace’. While the lifespan of these members may be shorter, and the medical considerations may be problematic, many of them are industry professionals in non-technical fields and may have a history living in a simpler time. They may develop a fond sense of nostalgia for the ways of a low-tech permaculture farm implementing oxen rather than tractors, and all work is done by hand. The least reliable market to date, these members of society may well be targeted for recruitment, but we cannot depend on their participation; as far as I am concerned, the void remains.
Then, during one evening’s pondering, I had an epiphany. In one flash of inspiration, I felt compelled by the knowledge that I found the answer to the following undying questions; “Which group of people would be willing to leave all that they have to move into ‘company housing’? Which group of people would be willing to live in an ‘alternative’ society where monetary remuneration is not the desired result of a hard days work? Which group of people would feel compelled to remain and eek out a living among the rocks and roots, when the bright lights and indulgence of the Las Vagas’ of the world call them from behind the culture of the Western World? Who would renounce the use of television in favor of books, renounce Gucci in favor of home-sewn, and renounce MacDonald’s in favor of all-natural.
What was my inspiration, you may ask; The Homeless.
The homeless have been cast out from society, either by their own choice, a psychological condition (curable or incurable), situational condition (bad divorce, victim of fraud, parolees, etc), childhood runaways, and so on. Many, though understandably not all, of these individuals could be returned to a status of functional members of society if given the choice, with or without levels of psychological aid and conditioning. Habits learned and unlearned during periods of homelessness could remove the chance for a clean re-integration; so, too, could some psychological traumas that can be cured or adjusted to with the proper help and guidance.
These are still people, the cast out, the spit-upon, the pitied and at best, ignored. I believe that there exists an inherent good in all human beings, no matter how cruel, or how helpless. Every pair of hands has the capacity to shape clay, has the capacity to hold a wrench or to comfort a child; it is only the mind that forgets. I endeavour to assist those of these homeless cast-outs, those of whom who wish it, to reintegrate into a society that is different enough from the one that they resent to offer a sort of connection. One that would accept them, and in time cure them of their isolation. Measures will, of course, be taken to only accept those willing participants who are free of incurable mental illness with the aid of psychological testing, and those who choose not to integrate will be asked to leave the grounds.
Those who choose to leave the alleys and dumpsters of Canada’s cities and towns will be welcomed by warm beds, hot foods, hard work and rewarding interpersonal relationships with others whom we have helped, each having come from a variety of situations with a variety of healing to be shared. Cohabitating with others who have grown, integrated, abandoned their previous existances for those of altruism and communal living will have a positive effect on their desire for growth. Those who reject the lifestyle will be dismissed and removed, like any other company, and the best and brightest of those we’ve helped will remain to further shepherd others towards a greater good and greater posture of health. To turn one life around, will generate the rewards that cannot be described, both ephemeral and immaterial, and will have global consequences when the work is published for peer review. The healing does not end there, many homeless have been placed in this predicament because of mistakes made in their past, and many have continued to make similar mistakes while in their state of homelessness. The abuse of drugs, alcohol and so on, can be cured by a purer living on organic foods, positive and honest ideals and the isolation offered by this situation. Those who suffer withdrawal symptoms can be aided by many herbal supplements that you won’t find behind your pharmacists counter, but Mother Nature has provided since before the dawn of human civilization. The proposed Aide Station on the community grounds will have the knowledge and the herbal resources, each cultivated on-site, to assist in this problems.
The introduction of new skills, as well, remains a powerful tool for growth. Those who could not acquire higher learning through other means could be trained in our heritage crafts, such as fabrication of a variety of ceramics, natural fiber weaving of threads and textiles, carpentry, herbalism and smithy. Many of these skills are becoming lost arts and fetch high-dollar values in specialty markets both locally in Canada and abroad. These skills are integrated into part of life in Tir Tairngire Ecovillage, and will become necessary to our survival as a sovereign, self-sustaining body. Through the education and implementation of the new members and these skills, they become seamlessly integrated into the fabric of our society, and the effects of this fusing will become a powerful force for growth.
As all birds leave a nest, ours only has space for so many chicks. Those who have reached the end of the life-cycle of growth which we provide will be encouraged to leave, and expand their horizons. The community will use it’s resources to acquire employment for our children, and to use the skills they have fashioned through months or years of hard labour and help from the others in the village. It has been postulated that the village work with, or simply create, splinter businesses that function autonomously, and provide the services that we can train our workers to provide. Specialty ceramics businesses, herbalism, carpentry and metalworking. These companies can accept our workers, as they will be aligned with us, and possibly donate resources back to the community in a support capacity. It could be considered our children giving something back. Once they develop the habits of working outside the protective confines of the community, paying their own rent and managing their own affairs as working bodies, they will be free to seek bigger and better things. It then makes space for us move human resources from the community out to the businesses again in a continuous flow, such that we may always have space for new arrivals in need of healing.
While thought to be heartless to ignore the problem, it’s a small thing to throw change. It would be a large gesture to buy them a meal, or offer a ride to a hobo. How huge would it be to offer a vagrant a space at your thanksgiving table? What, then, can be shared in Tir Tairngire when the homeless are no filth, urchins or deleterious, but they remain human beings who are one hand away from healing and reintegrating into the world at large? When it is so easy to provide for a human being, provide a meal, a home, a job and a future; how could any human being offer less?
PS: I also realized, couldn’t we help some of the “disabled” in the same way? There are “Manpower” programs for people with down syndrome, autism and so on, to supply them with menial, dead-end, scullery duties with a helper… What if we did that for the village? How much intellectual capacity or higher learning do some tasks really require? Fascinating.