Chapter Seven: The Passing Parade

      "Enterprises of the Cooperative Commonwealth Community are now coalescing and CCC is entering its next phase," Elbridge stated, as he began his Overseer report to the group. He displayed a chart on the computer display screen:

Cooperative Commonwealth Community - Phases

Phase One

Phase Two

Phase Three

Tentative Membership - Personal Investment

Permanent Membership - Shared Investment

Total Commitment -
Communal Involvement

Individuals Invest Money and Time, e.g. Health Clinic

Group Invests Money and Time, e.g. General Store

Communal Involvement - Individuals Invest Everything

      "We started with persons who had sufficient net holdings to make a personal investment of $25,000 each and individual augmented investment in the cooperative community, as Nina did in setting up the Health Clinic. The money she put in was carefully recorded in our CCC database that Melissa and Patrick manage. In phase two, CCC made group investments, such as purchasing our New Harmony living quarters and the building and site for our general store. We'll be creating other joint ventures as we go along.

      "As we approach phase three, we'll need to decide how we repay or credit such personal investments as Nina's and when it will be appropriate to enter into a communal pattern in which each of us divests all our net holdings to CCC. In preparation for phase three, we've made the personal net holdings of each of us group knowledge from the beginning."

      "You and Diotima spoke of this third phase from the beginning of our screening and training," Joan said, "but now that we're moving inexorably closer to it, I must confess that I have qualms."

      "Yes," Elbridge said, "we reviewed this when you were admitted provisionally into CCC membership. You and Darby came to our group with $2.2 million each in net holdings, more than any of the rest of us. Diotima and I, for instance, came in with only $260,000 apiece. Let's explore your feelings about this third phase, so the whole group can examine this issue with great care."

      "Joan and I are understandably concerned about our retirement," Darby said, "and conferring all our holdings to the cooperative community seems like a significant risk. Of course, we've made a carefully-considered decision to join the efforts of this cooperative enterprise, because we see this as the most important work we can do to bring America and the world out of the horrors of predatory capitalism. We'd never be content with the usual retirement life of useless idleness. But at the same time, we wonder how can we be sure that the cooperative group will endure beyond the usual small number of years that most communal groups last."

      Joel Thompson quickly replied. "You can't be sure this will last--none of us can be certain. But if we go into this with the thought that it'll likely fail and hold back our full support, that's the surest way to make certain it flounders and dies."

      "We either see this commonwealth community as the most important thing in our lives," Nina added, "and give it all our resources of time and money, or we're still unsure to the point that we probably should be doing something else."

      "I'm still proving myself," Julia said, "but I've come to a new realization that this cooperative community is not only the best way for me to live in genuine concern for Patrick and you others in this group, but also the most reasonable way to create a kind of Noah's Ark to help people through this catastrophic time of general collapse."

      "Yes," Patrick added quickly, "we see the community as the most workable means of helping Americans attain a vision of a better way of ordering their political, economic, and social lives. We can provide a proven blueprint for a better, cooperative society that will provide real hope for people who're suffering increasing destitution under capitalist tyranny."

      "We sometimes sound like a bunch of socialist comrades, don't we?" Diotima said. "Which is pretty much what we should sound like." She turned to Joan and Darby. "You two certainly have the most to consider in terms of money as we go into this next phase where we place all our holdings in the community. It seems reasonable to you that you'd have the most to think about. But not to me. Since we're each going to be investing everything--money as well as our very life-essence--in this venture, then each person's commitment is entirely equal; disproportionate monetary divestment is irrelevant."

      Rick Webb spoke up. "It's scary for each of us because we've never before relied on others for our very lives, since we were born into a dog-eat-dog society. I've looked very carefully at each member of this group since I joined, making as certain as possible that each was the kind of person I could trust. I've been more than satisfied with the level of commitment and dedication in the group. I've come to the conclusion that it's reasonable to trust my life to this cooperative community."

      "I think you're right," Diotima," Joan said. "Darby and I are still holding onto old capitalist values when it's counterproductive to do so." She paused. "But I just want to say to everyone," she looked sternly about the group, "if you let me down I'm going to put the curse of Karl Marx on all of you!"

      The group burst into laughter, the tension broken. Darby took Joan's hand in his and smiled broadly to let her know that he agreed with her fully.

      "Now we just have the small, insignificant job," Elbridge concluded his Overseer report, "of helping to move the world into an entirely new frame of mind that sees cooperation instead of conflict as the basis for human life. Surely, that'll be a piece of cake, right?"

To Chapter Eight