"If one of those people latch onto me," I told CR, "they are going to have a debate."
God must have heard me. Within a minute of me saying that, a very cute redheaded girl started her spiel. She was wearing an olive drab coat, a tightly knit green sweater, and cargo pants stuffed with various promo material. Zendik, is the name of her group. She had slogans that said, "Stop Bitching - Start a revolution." She started off with a strong statement about how the world was messed up, delivered to me like a college recruiter... but peppered with a few oblique swear words, I am guessing, to make herself look more hip and confident with the younger set.
"The world is fucked up, right... and like... we have to all work together and make... like, the world a better place through expressive art and creativity and all kinds of good shit."
Within a few seconds, I had determined that this girl was as naive as she was attractive. While she said she was not a member of a cult (I asked her directly this question), she was living in a commune, and believed in many idealistic things about how everyone should live with one another. I felt a very strong draw with her, which I guess would be on par with recruiting people and getting them to buy bumper stickers, CDs, and magazines. I scanned behind her eyes, searching for the telltale signs of brainwashing (like dull shallow eyes with a steel interior, indicating a disconnection with strong programming). I could not tell a thing one way or another, so I won't claim she's been brainwashed into a cult because that would be rather a dramatic statement to make about someone I only spoke with for about ten minutes. She looked like she was maybe in her early 20s but she claimed to be 31.
Sadly she had all kinds of ideals that one might expect from an isolated commune that preaches love, art, and the world can live in harmony without hierarchy. Not much real world experience. While I adore the thought of such a world, she lacked any theories of how one should implement this other than just being artistic and creative. When I told her communism fails under the weight of just one lazy person, she assured me they were not communists (even though they lived in a commune, a word she herself used). I asked her about Dunbar's number, or "monkeysphere," which states that approximately 150 is the number of a theorized cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable social relationships. How would this apply to six billion people? It was a repeat of how we'd all get along thought art and expression of individuality and why the government was no longer needed because we were an evolving species that no longer needed social hierarchy.
She came back to the point on how messed up our government was half a dozen times, like it was a familiar starting point to anything she was trying to get across to me, which became irritating because I wanted to say, "Yes, Bush is an idiot, what do you want to DO about it?" She also changed her point of view about 3-4 times to match what I discussed with her, which suggested a very mailable mind without a stable point of view, but I did not determine whether this was her inability to stay coherent or discuss anything that might cause conflict ("My master tells me so"), that she wanted to please me ("Like me, please!"), or the fact she just wanted to sell me things ("Come on, dude. I gotta sell this stuff."). Within 10 minutes I had determined that the only reason I had her in front of me was she was a cute Irish girl, and I was ignoring my son, who was patiently waiting for me to stop talking.
One thing I did see her try, very hard, to do was hand me a magazine. One of the things you're taught about sales is that if you get a customer to take a product from you, like handing it to the customer, they are far more likely to buy it. So I deliberately did not take the magazine despite several parries and jabs in my direction. When I asked her about the CDs, she didn't seem as keen on selling me those, claiming the woman CD was a little long and boring, and the man CD was a little better, but not by much.
I felt I had taken her time, and since she had nothing to offer me intellectually anymore, I gave her $3 so that she didn't completely waste her time with me (I feared she would be punished in some way if she didn't get something). She gave me a bumper sticker to www.zednik.org.
So I looked it up.
There's not a lot about it except for stuff they say about themselves and various search engines they probably plugged into. I dug a little deeper and found some address conflicts. Depending on where you look, the commune is either based in Florida (according to one listing), North Carolina (as per their whois address), or West Virginia (from their web site). The commune was founded by Arol and Wulf Zednik, who claim to be former archaeologists, and completely look the part for the kind of people who run a commune. They turn out to be the woman and the man on their respective CDs that the redhead did not really care for. Wulf apparently has died.
I feel a little torn. On one hand, if they are a legit art camps for those who can't deal in our common civilization, I am all for that. But if they are just another excuse to have some semi-religious reason to have wanton sex with many people at their expense, then no.