Monday, May 28, 2012

Week of 05/28/2012

Dictator Housewives
(Or “The Hidden Rules Of A Real Socialist Enclave”)
– by David Matthews 2

Twelve years ago almost to the day, I came up with a column about the dangers of covenant neighborhoods. I’m sure many people who read it simply shook their heads or rolled their eyes and said “Oh you silly little Libertarian!”

I wonder, though, how many of those same people are rolling their eyes today, especially after the Great Recession devastated the housing market and is generally making life unbearable for most people. Well, if you haven’t moved into a new house in the past twelve years, and you don’t already live in a covenant neighborhood, then you’re probably going to roll your eyes again.

But thanks to the GOP and their Squealer-like cohorts on FoxNews and talk radio and this eternal talk about “socialism” and “communism” when it comes to anything related to President Obama, I thought I would remind people that we already have real socialist enclaves in America. And not only are these socialist enclaves here and they precede Obama by decades, but we have plenty of people who enter into these socialist enclaves willingly when they move into a house that exists inside a covenant neighborhood.

A covenant neighborhood is any neighborhood that is governed by your neighbors through binding legal contracts. Often these neighborhoods are set up by developers and realtors who then turn things over to a “managerial organization”, which are run by a “committee” of your neighbors. If you live in a “Senior Community”, for instance, you are living in a covenant neighborhood.

Now when people think of neighborhoods, they think “Ozzie and Harriet”. They think of that fictional 1950’s time invented by conservatives where neighbors were kind and caring people that would look out for the community out of the goodness of their hearts. In truth, your neighbors are less like Norman Rockwell and more like the folks from the “Harper Valley PTA”.

ABC recently ended their ten-year look at suburbia and its insanity with the finale of “Desperate Housewives”. The series revolved around four stereotypical “housewives” that reflected the kind of people that we would call our neighbors. They were petty, vain, narcissistic at times (some more than others), manipulative, and willing to do anything to keep that illusion of normalcy going even when everything around them screamed otherwise.

But while we’d like to think that our neighbors are like the four principal “Housewives”, in truth, they’re more like the other housewives in the neighborhood. The ones that you would only see briefly in the show. The ones that back-talk and spread rumors and cast that condescending gaze or give that judgmental stare for the camera. The neighbors that would make your skin crawl just by seeing them for longer than the average five seconds of camera exposure.

Now imagine these same people with the power to take away your home. Suddenly it’s not so light-hearted, is it? That is the true hidden power of these enclaves of socialism. They have the power to take away your home if you do not comply with their demands.

So if you find that you are in one of these socialist enclaves, you need to keep in mind these simple rules to avoid getting into trouble:

Rule #1: You really do not own your home! Let’s get brutally honest here… even if it is your name on the deed and the mailbox and the mortgage and all the bills, that home and the property it sits on is not, nor was it ever, yours. The devil here is in the details, and in this case it is hidden away in that covenant agreement that you signed. You are “allowed” to live there and to pay for the utilities and to maintain the house for the benefit of the neighborhood and for the realtors as long as you do so under their rules and their restrictions.

That may not seem like too much of a burden until you realize that the determination for complying with those rules and restrictions rest solely with your neighbors. That brings us to the next rule…

Rule #2: Your neighbors are not your friends! You know that neighbor that strolls by your home three times a day that flashes a friendly smile and gives a cheerful greeting? That neighbor is watching you to see if you’re doing anything he or she won’t like. Is your lawn mowed? Are the bushes trimmed just right? Water the grass yet? How’s the siding? How’s your car? Is it washed and parked in the garage? What sort of lawn decorations do you have out on the lawn? Did you put up anything that could be considered “offensive” or even striking?

Bear in mind that your neighbor won’t tell you about anything they may take issue with. No, that neighbor will just smile and wave at you and wish you a good day. Then they’ll call up “the committee” and make a complaint. Because that is what “the committee” is there for. “The committee” is there to send the business letter from the managerial firm ordering you to fix whatever the complaint is or else face legal troubles, which usually means taking away your home.

No, your neighbors are not your friends. They’re not like Bree or Lynette or Susan or Gabby. They’re not even Karen McCluskey or Edie Britt. No, they’re “Gossiping Neighbor #23” and “Stern-Looking Neighbor #5”. They’re the ones you barely know outside of their names, who make small talk with you while they get the latest gossip and find a little something on you as well.

Remember, friends will tell you that there’s a problem before it reaches “the committee”. Enemies will gloat about reporting you to “the committee”. Your neighbors in a covenant neighborhood, however, are neither.

Rule #3: It’s all about the “Community”! Covenant neighborhoods demand conformity and homogeny. Developers churn out the same three or four housing models because they know someone will buy them. Realtors sell more houses when the neighborhood looks as generic as possible. These are the people that came up with “the committee”. They were the ones that wrote the rules that you signed to, and ultimately they are the ones that benefit from your continued compliance.

Remember, you are not there in a covenant neighborhood for your benefit. You are there to help maintain the property values for the whole area. You are there only as a means to someone else’s end. That is how the developer sees it when they put in more cookie-cutter housing models. That is how the realtors see it when they sell those cookie-cutter houses. That is how “the committee” sees it when they sit in judgment over all the homes. And that is how your neighbors see it when they see you do something that sets you apart from the others. Anything that can affect their property values is seen as a threat.

This is the essence of socialism, folks.

Rule #4: Keep it quiet! The worst thing that you can be in a socialist enclave is unique. The worst thing you can do in that same enclave is display that uniqueness for the world to see.

Have a seasonal banner that you like to waive on your porch next to the Stars-and-Stripes? Well unless other neighbors share in your love of such decorations, it will probably end up on the list of “prohibited” items. Love a particular kind of grass in your lawn? If it’s not one of the “approved” kinds of grass, then you will have a problem. Have a thing for lawn ornaments? Find out if other people in the neighborhood share your love of gnomes first before finding a spot next to the azaleas.

Bear mind that these are all otherwise normal and innocuous forms of individuality that could still get you in trouble with “the committee” should your neighbors complain. We haven’t even gotten to political signs and running a business from your house and having frequent visitors. For that matter, we haven’t talked about how loud your TV volume should be.

Basically, keep it minimal, keep it to yourself, and you can keep out of the fickle eyes of both your neighbors and “the committee”.

Rule #5: Compliance is absolute and immediate! There is no “appeal” with “the committee”. There is only guilt and compliance. There is no debate; there is no deliberation; there is nothing to discuss when “the committee” sends out that letter through the managerial group. You cannot plead your case to them. You are guilty at that point, and you are expected to comply to their demands immediately.

Oh, and you are expected to comply regardless of either the cost or of your economic situation. “The committee” does not care if you’re on a fixed income or if you’ve been in the hospital or if you got laid off from work. They don’t care if you’re momentary broke while keeping the bills paid. This is why they use the managerial group as their enforcers, so they won’t have to care. Remember Rule #3; it’s not about you. It’s all about the “community”.

One more thing: the members of “the committee” are the ones that make the final determination as to whether you complied to their demands. They don’t care if you spent that last few dollars you had to make those changes instead of buying food for the week. If it isn’t to their satisfaction, then you’ve got a problem besides being hungry.

Rule #6: Never miss a Community Meeting! This is especially true when it comes to those meetings where those bylaws are decided upon. Here’s how it works… if you’re not there, then your neighbors will make note of that. Then the discussion will be about you. Next thing you know, you get a letter from the managerial group on behalf of “the committee” about some new rule change that you’re now in violation of. Of course, this new rule wouldn’t be there if you were at the meeting in the first place, but because you weren’t, you now have to pay the price for your absence.

Plus, those kinds of community meetings are the only way you can bring some of those really annoying rules to light and find ways to challenge them and maybe even repeal them. Don’t expect your neighbors to do that for you. Remember Rule #2; behind that cheerful smile and friendly wave of many a neighbor is a secret dictator looking to make your life a living hell.

And finally…

Rule #7: When all else fails, be their worst enemy! Mutual Assured Destruction is not just a game played by world leaders. It’s also an acceptable method of retaliation when dealing with those secret dictators in your little socialist enclave. If you get called out by “the committee” over something minor, then you make it your mission in life to bring down the rest of the neighborhood over every little minor infraction they make. Take photos of their infractions and cite line and rule to “the committee”. But be sure to do it with a friendly smile. You wouldn’t want them to think that it was “personal”.

Because, after all, socialist enclaves demand homogeny, and if some of your neighbors are miserable secret tyrants, then your neighborhood demands that everyone else be just as miserable and dictatorial. You wouldn’t want to disappoint the “community”, would you?

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