No longer observers

IssueMarch - June 2002
Feature by Jenny James, Lauren Kelley

Most of us have a grand vision, but few of us dare to make our dreams reality. In the 1970s the Atlantis community formed as a therapy community, by the `80s they had ecological communities in Ireland and Colombia. However, their dream was shattered when they lost 6,000 acres of land and two of their young adults at the hands of a band of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces Columbia) paramilitaries.


Lauren Kelley: How did the Atlantis community come to be established in Ireland?

Jenny James: After working for years in the urban “PNP-People Not Psychiatry” movement in London, I tired of the dirt and traffic noise, and of the “drop-in” attitude from people needing help and decided to remove our therapy centre to the countryside.

We spent a year in a rented farmhouse in the British Lake District before the alarm of the (Communist!) landlord reached “I'm sorry but you'll have to go” proportions. I then persuaded our group that we needed to go much farther afield, somewhere where no-one else would dream of going, and where properties would be cheap. I suggested Ireland and was met with shock-horror, but eventually took some of the group there and Atlantis was formed. In the `80s, the long finger of the interfering authorities poked at us; our children were non-schooled, we lived as a tribe-how suspicious!-and so one of the community's children was stolen from us by the “health” authorities under the most absurd and fanciful of pretexts. This resulted in a battle which took place over many years, during which time I decided that my own three entirely natural-born, free-living toddlers needed to be removed to a place of safety, away from the twisted minds of social workers! I began the pioneering mission to South America when Katie was one, Alice three, and Louise five. My own background of extremely leftwing militant politics of course influenced tremendously our choice of a new home, as did my already fluent Spanish. Colombia was not on our list of possible countries (“Too near the US-they will invade one day”, I said at the time). We were headed for Bolivia to “follow the footsteps of Che Guevara”. I was essentially seduced by Colombia “on the way down”.

I got as far as Peru, but turned back. The people I had met in Colombia were of such a high level of “awakeness” such as I had found nowhere else. So Colombia it was.

LK: What are the present goals of Atlantis?

JJ: What they have always been: self-sufficiency, to show ourselves and everyone else that life is possible without technology, without damaging and raping the planet. And - most importantly - that the physical labour, which most of the “developed” world seems terrified of, is the most delicious, health-giving, life-extending, satisfying form of human, when organised well within the context of a tribal community.

Therapy, sexual freedom for children, no school, political involvement, all flow organically from this basic premise (well, for us they do!).

LK: How has the murder of two of your boys affected your visions and ideas about war, peace and justice?

JJ: It hasn't. We already knew what state the world was in. But on the personal level, it is quite simply shattering. We are atheists, but I wonder if even the most religious people can ever really accept the blank wall of death? The utter unreachability of someone who has been ripped away violently and suddenly?

What the deaths of Tristan and Javier have done to us is to join us up forever with the growing mass of bereaved people all over the planet, we are no longer horrified observers of tragedy, but people who have felt it very close to home. It gives us an immediate link with anyone anywhere in the same position, without words, on the deepest possible level. Regarding war, violence, armed struggle and “peace”, I would say I was more confused than ever. Gone are the straightline theoretical, passionately convinced days of my youth, when I could argue the pacifist line. I can't. When l hear of what the US government is doing in Afghanistan for instance, I simply want to kill. I know of no way round this feeling.

I enjoy my hatred, it makes me feel clear and healthy and powerful. That is my truth. I would do absolutely anything to being down the US Empire!

My logical mind accepts and applauds the pacifist position, my daughters are part of Trident Ploughshares, but I am an intrinsically violent person when faced with injustice-how am I going to get around that? Answers from PN readers on a postcard please!

LK: Are there particular ways in which you like to receive support for the community? For example, do you like to receive communications with the “outside” world?

JJ: Oh yes please! We absolutely adore people writing to us. The main way we need help is in communication on all the vital issues of the day. We no longer dare to ask people to come out here, our consciences wouldn't allow it after Tris and Javier [were murdered], but our people in Ireland would love to receive helpful, practical visitors.

Mary and Becky [in Ireland] are also looking for creative ideas regarding the use of our old sailing boat which we have spent decades of time and money renovating.

We want to use it as a peace-campaigning vessel, and would welcome the organic formation of a group of people wanting to be involved in this.

We live from the crops we grow and love to receive gifts of seed to use and to give away to poor neighbours, we love receiving political publications-and of course if there were that one-in-a-million brave soul who wants to tread these beautiful mountains, our doors are open.

My greatest hunger is for communication, as my chosen lifestyle, amidst plants, mountains and away from traffic and all “normal” means of correspondence brings with it the desolation and depression of agonising over “big issues” that one needs soulmates to discuss with. Particularly as I do not wish to mar the children's natural exuberance and joy with the world's tragedies.

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