After 35 years on the quest for self-sufficiency in food, water, art, spirituality, housing, energy, schooling, health, information, currency, clothes, furniture, transport etc., a group of young members of the ecosociety “Federation of Damanhur” in Northern Italy has started a new experiment for independency. By Simon Westermann.
Literally translated, “Olio Caldo” means “Hot Oil”. The term stems from a Damanhurian Myth “The Zafire Masks”, where a group of travellers manages to escape the enemy by tricking him: They lay off all clothes in the snow, rub themselves with hot oil to survive the winter cold, and flee in the opposite direction, making the enemy think they had died.
In 1986, the first “Olio Caldo” took place in a little old barn. Six people decided to live radically for a year, surviving solely on what they could cultivate, hunt or trade with others. Even their clothes, shoes and beds had to be made by themselves.
This triggered a wave of craftsmanship in the rest of the community, in order to support the experimenting group with goods through barter. In this way, the whole community acquired a series of practical survival skills, which since then are part of Damanhurian cultural knowledge.
After other phases of Olio Caldo 2, and 3, in October 2012 we commenced Olio Caldo 4. A group of young new citizens came back from a two week journey called “the Viaggio”, a game of life, a transformational adventure used to bring change and renewal into the community. They decided they wanted to live on the farm to create a “new way of life”, so upon their return, they immediately set up a tent and started to “conquer the Nucleo”, Prima Stalla or First Stable (The Nucleos are a community within the Damanhurian Federation of Communities).
This time, Olio Caldo would be as radical as that of 1986, but, at the same time, flexible and creative enough to integrate, inspire and transform the existing community culture.
Within a few weeks, it became a federation wide movement, where people started to ask themselves: “What could I grow, create or invent to serve the tribe?”
Where can we win an independence in places we don`t yet have? Where is a space we could cultivate in addition to that we already have? A wave of feverish, creative community work and experimenting swept through the nucleo-families.
Some people ask whether Olio Caldo is a 2012 disaster preparation action? Not really. We are based on fast change and “on the spot” invention.
In 1978, Damanhur was founded with the intent on becoming an independent nation of communities within Europe. The need for self-sufficiency in terms of food, clothes, furniture, health services, schooling, money, water, information, research and energy, are topics that have been long worked on within the communities, and are already rooted in the constitution, though not yet achieved 100%.
In Italy, taxes are among the highest in the world. Everything you sell or use with the Euro is taxed at least 50%!
This is a challenge for a community, because as it is building an alternative system with alternative services and a high complexity, the community is paying taxes to an “outside state” as well as internal contributions at the same time.
Olio Caldo 4, besides catalysing cultural rebirth and renewal, is focused on making Damanhur independent from the globalized market with all of its crises, injustice, suffering and vulnerabilities. It is accomplishing this by creating an alternative system of goods and services within the community, and with other communities in the world, based on trust, solidarity, respect for life, arts, education, barter, a new ethic and alternative currencies.
Some of the biggest challenges we face are in our heads, the little daily habits we have, the tastes, the likes and dislikes for specific products. We use humour and deep listening to come to new conclusions and agreements together. Our biggest strength lies in 35 years of community experience, an alive spirituality, a very diverse, international population with a multitude of talents and resources, a global network of centres, and many other communities and organisations we have friend-ties with.
Maybe the time has come, where communities from all around the world form a new “union of life” and peacefully declare their independence from all national states they originally grew in. Damanhur, as one of many worldwide communities, has shown in a real-life model that a different form of society is certainly possible. Not only possible, but urgently necessary looking at the decay of today’s systems.
After all the public protests and revolutions in the streets of the last years, communities have worked hard for decades to create real functioning model alternatives in the world. Not to be simply copied and multiplied, but to be studied, learned from and re-created in a myriad of different ways. After all, humanity has lived for thousands of years as a tribe of many tribes, distinctive of language and culture, and therefore mutually enriching through diversity? With Olio Caldo 4 we are trying to do exactly that: find again ever deeper the nature, rhythm, art, skills and colours of our tribes.
Please be welcome to contact or visit us, find more on: www.damanhur.org
If you are interested in learning how to create a Biogas-Unit for your community, contact Simon at: west(at)gmx.ch
There will be a course with the biogas-expert T.H. Culhane from January 4-6 2013 in Damanhur.