Saturday, 22 November 2014


After I left the Provisionals and Newry, I spent several months, travelling the roads of most parts of Ireland, until I came to the Island of Inisfree, off the coast of Donegal. It was a commune based on the theories of Primal Scream, which I found, was essentially about having no secrets, particularly emotional, such as jealousy, anger, love, etc.. There was no such thing as personal owner ship, which extended to sexual partners and the group operated collectively, as a self supporting Vegan community, without drugs or alcohol. It was for me a worthwhile experience but one which would not appeal to me permanently, probably because I am too selfish and self centered.

My main issue with the group and my principal reason for leaving, was that while the ethos was based on total honesty, I found the primary females, who could co-operate together as a group, far better than competitive men, were manipulate and sneaky. I wound up telling them with love, they were a shower of bitches. They would collectively as women, choose their alternating partners for the night and choose fresh ones next day.

This of course produced a reaction in the males, which would be similar to Primal Apes, who would then, beat their chests in rage and rant on at the top of their voice, to their replacement male, that he had stolen his woman, which in the context of a commune without ownership, was of course ridiculous, to the point of pure entertainment, particularly for the manipulating females, who used this to domineer the group in a very  effective manner. 

We cut our own turf, had the island to ourselves, had goats milk, cheese and baked our own bread. We had our own boat to cross to the mainland, when the weather was good. We spent a lot of the time, repairing a very old a ship, to take us to South America. To be fair to the commune, I was in a really bad space at the time and going through a personal crisis, after my political activity in the North and the breakup of my marriage. Other than this complaint, I was treated well and would recommend it to anyone, seeking an alternative experience. Below is and article about the group, followed by another on polyamory.

' Screamers '

It was a grisly end to an idyllic, idealistic childhood. And the saddest chapter yet in the story of a hippie "cult" dogged by bad luck. Tristan James, a gentle lad of 18 who had been raised in the Atlantis commune in the Colombian rainforest, was to return to Ireland, the country of his birth, for a gap year. But before he went, he wanted to say goodbye to his 17-year-old brother Brendan, who was living in the country's highlands, southwest of Bogota, with a local family. He also wanted to glimpse one more time the organic farm in the forest from which his community had been evicted by rebels the year before.
It was a grisly end to an idyllic, idealistic childhood. And the saddest chapter yet in the story of a hippie "cult" dogged by bad luck. Tristan James, a gentle lad of 18 who had been raised in the Atlantis commune in the Colombian rainforest, was to return to Ireland, the country of his birth, for a gap year. But before he went, he wanted to say goodbye to his 17-year-old brother Brendan, who was living in the country's highlands, southwest of Bogota, with a local family. He also wanted to glimpse one more time the organic farm in the forest from which his community had been evicted by rebels the year before.
Only one eyewitness has talked about the horrific events that unfolded on 9 July when Tristan and his friend, a 19-year-old called Javier Nova, stopped for a drink at the hamlet of Hoya Grande in the Incononzo region. That witness, a woman who insisted on anonymity, has since fled the area, which is racked by bloody civil war. Everyone else is simply too terrified to talk.
According to the witness, the hapless teenagers were seized by four drunken gunmen, who there and then convened a macabre mock trial in which they were accused of spying for right-wing paramilitary groups. It was a farcical scene, but what happened next was gruesome in the extreme. The woman told how the men slit Tristan's throat - and as his life ebbed away, cut off his head.
While Tristan's blood was being spilt, his friend was made to watch. Then it was his turn: Javier's throat was also slit, and he was also beheaded. The woman recalled that the gunmen yelled: "We shall kill this gringo for bringing the death squads into this area..." Afterwards the bodies were doused with petrol and set alight. No one seems to doubt the eye witness's story. The boys were never seen again and no bodies have been found.
Violence is nothing new in Colombia, where the government, with $1bn from the United States, is waging war on leftist rebel forces, who are financed in turn by vast local opium and coca crops. This year alone, 1,389 Colombians have officially been slain by leftist rebels and right-wing paramilitaries in 314 separate massacres. On forest paths, villagers regularly find bodies which bear the "necktie" signature of the right-wing militias - where a victim's tongue has been pulled through his slit throat, as a warning to peasants who support the rebels.
So horrific murder is a fact of life, and civilians are mostly too terrified to protest, even when their loved ones become victims. But Tristan's murder was different - for instead of keeping quiet, his grandmother, Jenny James, and a fellow commune member, Donegal-born Anne Barr, are demanding information from every quarter even risking their lives by appearing on television and naming the killers.
The formidable matriarch of the female-dominated commune, Jenny James has always cut her own path. It was she who, more than 20 years ago, scandalised conservative Catholic Ireland when she decamped from her Brixton commune to the quaint fishing village of Burtonport, in Donegal, to found the back-to-nature community which became notorious in 1970s Ireland for its members' sexual promiscuity and practice of "primal-scream therapy". And it was she who, 13 years ago, brought the Screamers to Colombia from Ireland. Now she has turned her energies to breaking through "the wall of terrified silence" which surrounds her grandson's murder.
Back in Ireland, meanwhile, Tristan's mother, Rebecca Garcia, and her half-sister, Louise, are trying to push the European end of their campaign for justice, helped by Mary Kelly, a long-time commune member with three sons in Colombia. In a small, cluttered flat in Cork, Garcia explained that she had not seen Tristan for two years - having returned to Ireland to help repair the commune's sailing ship, in preparation for an ambitious voyage back to Colombia, and to sell its old Burtonport headquarters. Atlantis's remaining ties with the old country were being severed and eventually the women planned to return to the rainforests.
Rebecca says that for a very brief period in July she clung to the hope that Tristan had been kidnapped, before accepting that he was dead. Commune life has made her oddly unwilling to make Tristan's murder her own special loss. "I gave birth to Tristan," she told me. "But I really feel for the kids he grew up with. The saddest thing is that Tristan's life was just beginning."
On the walls of the little Cork flat, and in the "family" photo albums, there are pictures of Tristan, clad in crimson, and the other commune kids, Louise, Alice and Katy, all pretty and blonde, performing in the commune's theatre group. Their "gringo" band has performed all over Colombia. There are also pictures of the girls - in ethereal white costumes - practising yoga in the rainforest. In another the three sisters are being drenched under a stunning Colombian waterfall. It all seems as bohemian as Isadora Duncan, as idealistic as Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie The Beach.
But Louise, who is now 19 and who returned to Ireland two years ago to study dance, says it would be wrong to think of commune life as pure pleasure, and members as dreamers. Surviving in the rainforest, she says, is tough, particularly with the violence, which has become so bad that at times the group has had to arm itself.
Louise has been upset by the way the media has focused more on the commune's Screamer past than Tristan's murder. Rebecca, though grieving, has had calls from tabloids only interested in the old "free love" days when commune-members changed partners with alarming regularity. In Ireland, Mary says, at least the community was allowed to shed its Screamer baggage long ago and move into the environmental mainstream.
"All this stuff about the 1970s," says Louise. "It was all before Tristan and I were even born." But many who remember how the Screamers lived, are fascinated by their unexpected reappearance, two decades later, at the centre of the Colombian civil war.
Jenny James was already 33 when she arrived in Donegal in September 1974 to buy a new home for "her tribe". The middle-class daughter of Communist parents, she later wrote romantically of the west of Ireland with its "warm mist, rough roads... and cottages crumbling back into the earth they came from".
This was the perfect isolated spot, she believed, in which to create the perfect community and experiment with anti-psychiatry therapies. The three-storey building in Burtonport, purchased by James for £10,000, soon rang with screams. Sleepy little Burtonport must have had its moments. But, clearly, the new neighbours took it by surprise. Atlantis House's exterior was speedily re-painted with astrological signs, ruining the village's uniform whitewash and enraging the local council. Then the visitors, many emotionally distressed, began to arrive. And with them came scandal.
Mary Kelly says the scandals - accusations of kidnap, brainwashing and sexual promiscuity - that engulfed Atlantis were exaggeration and prejudice, eagerly seized upon, and by, a conservative establishment which saw Atlantis as a threat to religious and family values. In They Call Us the Screamers, Jenny James claims it was a split between an Irish couple staying at the commune that led to a man claiming his two children had been kidnapped and his wife brainwashed by a "cult". Questions were asked in the Dail and MPs called for the "English" Atlantis community to be deported. Even the IRA got involved, issuing kneecapping threats and bomb warnings.
Journalists and film crews trekked west and were invited in to witness tearful therapy sessions. While some condemned Atlantis as completely fruity, others actually joined the commune. The group tried to get away by moving to the nearby island of Innisfree, where they lived without electricity, but the west coast Eden was already spoiled.
A new paradise had to be found. Louise bristles at the suggestion that her mother wafted down to South America, Katy still in nappies, utterly naive and unprepared. James already had a degree in South American studies and had learned the native Indian language, Quechua. And she had money in her pocket, the profits from the commune's cottages rented to holidaymakers on Innisfree.
In her book, James occasionally comes over as a Svengali, unsympathetic to Irish families who "lost" their children to the group. And those who saw Atlantis as nothing but an excuse for sexual promiscuity were treated to the details of numerous partner changes.
Mary, Rebecca and Louise come over as level-headed. But some of Atlantis's early practices now seem quite bonkers. In one memorable passage Jenny James describes how the female-dominated commune is haemorrhaging men and how she and two other women spend all morning weeping in each other's arms in Becky's room while "Becky [Rebecca, then 14] does her homework".
But as Louise points out, it was another time. Primal therapy may not been jettisoned by the group but it is no longer centre stage. Louise does not talk of therapy sessions but of environmental lobbying and of Atlantis's attempts to get Colombian peasant farmers to save the rainforest by switching from poppies and coca to organic food production.
What cannot be denied is that James has vision and stamina, and enough charisma to have kept a small core group of followers together across continents and the passing of two decades. Twenty years ago Jenny James was, however, misguidedly pushing for the "truth". After Tristan's murder, she says, that's what she still wants.
In Cork Louise says she knows the campaign her mother is waging in Colombia is dangerous. But idealism is obviously contagious. Why stay in Colombia now that the farms have been confiscated and Tristan and Javier are dead? Surely the Colombian dream, like the paradise in Donegal, is over. "Colombia is completely chaotic just now," she says. "But it is so very beautiful and we believe we have a chance of changing it into an ideal society."


Over the past few years, polyamory has become a more widely known term and practice. And perhaps inevitably, certain misconceptions and misunderstandings about what "polyamory" means have become widespread as well. It would be unfortunately difficult to say which among these misunderstandings is the most common, or the most hurtful to polyamorous folks. But there's one in particular that I'd like to discuss: the idea that "polyamory" means "committed couple who have casual partners on the side."
There has been much talk about "open marriage" and "open relationships" in recent years, with some even paradoxically dubbing non-monogamy "the new monogamy." In this open-marriage conception of non-monogamous relationships, there is still a central, committed (often legally married) couple, who allow one another to engage in purely sexual (or at least quite casual) outside relationships. Generally, any discussion about the benefits of such practice revolves around how it strengthens and/or reinvigorates the central couple in question. I want to be perfectly clear that I don't see anything wrong with strictly sexual non-monogamy so long as it's genuinely fulfilling and consensual for all involved, including the outside partners. But for those of us living in polyamorous families, it can be incredibly frustrating when people use those concepts of open marriage to make assumptions about the structure of our relationships.
Because we live in such a monogamy-centered society, it makes sense that many people can only conceive of non-monogamy in what ultimately still amounts to monogamous terms. There is a common misconception that a polyamorous relationship is really no different from an open-relationship agreement: one committed couple, with some lighthearted fun on the side. But the word "polyamory," by definition, means loving more than one. Many of us have deeply committed relationships with more than one partner, with no hierarchy among them and no core "couple" at the heart of it all. To me, this notion that there must be one more important relationship, one true love, feels a lot like people looking at same-sex couples and thinking that one person must be the "man" in the relationship and the other must be the "woman." After all, both of these misunderstandings result from people trying to graft their normative conceptions of love and relationships onto people who are partnering in non-normative ways. It seems that it is somewhat easy for many people to acknowledge that humans are capable of loving one person and still enjoying sex with others (assuming, of course, that the terms of their relationship make such behavior acceptable). But it is much harder for people to think outside the fairy-tale notion of "the one" and imagine that it might be possible to actually romantically love more than one person simultaneously.
The unfortunate result of this is that, for those of us in more than one serious and meaningful relationship, the world around us insists on viewing one of those relationships as less valid than the other, especially when one relationship happens to predate others. I have been with my husband for 17 years, legally married for 11. But I am also deeply in love with and committed to my boyfriend of two and a half years, and it hurts that people make assumptions about that relationship simply being something frivolous and recreational outside my marriage.
Another side effect of this misunderstanding is that people often wonder why we poly people need to talk openly about "what happens behind closed doors." I have heard many times that there should be no reason to disclose one's polyamorous relationships with parents, children, or the neighbors. That might seem logical if what we're talking about is strictly extramarital sexual partners. But my life with my partners isn't reducible to "what happens behind closed doors" any more than any serious, long-term relationship is. We share a home and a life; we are a family. Openly, publicly acknowledging my boyfriend as my partner is not just saying that we have sex. It's saying that, like my husband, he is my partner in every sense of the word. He loves me and supports me and respects me. He sees me at my worst and still wants to spend his life with me anyway. It would be unimaginable to me to hide the nature of our relationship, to pretend that he is merely a friend or roommate, to not have him by my side at weddings and funerals and family holiday gatherings. But this is exactly what people are expecting of me when they ask why I feel the need to be so "open" about my "private business."
Not all polyamorous people have multiple equally committed relationships, and many do designate a more central (typically live-in) relationship as "primary." But my partners and I are hardly unusual among polyamorous folks. Many share homes in configurations like ours, or as committed triads or quads or complex networks of five or more. Many have deep and lasting relationships with no cohabitation at all. To project traditional conceptions of love and commitment onto these relationships, to view them only as a slight variation on monogamy, is to deny all of the many varied ways that polyamorous people form relationships and families.
If you have polyamorous friends, relatives, or acquaintances, please don't make assumptions about their lives based on what you think all non-monogamous configurations look like. Let them tell you how they define their relationships. And if they identify multiple people as their partners, don't try to read into who is more important than whom, imagining hierarchies even if you're told there are none. Though it might not fit with how you conceptualize love, offer polyamorous relationships the same validation that you would offer any other. And remember what a common human thing it is to want to be able to tell the world -- and not be told by the world -- whom we love.

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