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Hippie Haven, Free Love and Communism?

When Riverside Community members 'out' themselves as exactly that: 'Riverside Community Members', some people still lift their eyebrows and look somehow consternated ('OH NO, you one of them...'), confused ('What, really, YOU are one of them!?') or even annoyed ('Oh, you one of THEM then!').

(Riverside Community Members, 1975)

It seems there are quite a few - let's call them - 'rather interesting' social constructions of Riverside floating around, and each one of them goes with also 'rather interesting' perceptions of WHAT Riverside Community is and WHO belongs to it. Declaring oneself as a Riversider in a group of people who have ever only heard about the Community but never actually visited, can create situations where members are working hard to disperse some strange and entertaining ideas about the place they call home.

Here are our all time bestsellers - the three most common misconceptions of Riverside:

1. Riverside Community is a Hippie Haven.

For some people out there, time has stood still, and while it may be true that there was a time when long-haired, long-bearded people roamed the grounds of Riverside, believing wholeheartedly and passionately in the 'Age of Aquarius' and 'Eternal Sunshine', this is not the case anymore. There were some hippies around in the 70ies, for sure, but that was not just the case in Riverside. Also, even then our Community struck a fine balance between more conservative (old-school) pacifists and new wave ones. So, Riverside was not even in the old days really a Hippy Haven.

These days, most of our members dress just as exuberantly and colorfully as our neighbors down the road. If there is a whole lot of rainbow people playing around Riverside, then that is most likely because a big, free-spirited festival has taken place in our region and festival goers tend to hang out at our hostel afterwards. Why is that? Probably because Riverside Community is a peaceful and beautiful, semi-rural spot where people can get together and just be...

And what is the problem with so-called Hippies anyway? What's really the problem with peace-loving, long-haired individuals who dress in floral tops and bell bottoms, if that is how we define a Hippie? And why would it be a problem if Riverside was indeed governed by a group of Hippies?

Perhaps the answer lies in the subtle connotations and not so subtle pictures that the term 'Hippie' can carry when spoken in a particular setting. A cultural setting where realities like Riverside - different from mainstream New Zealand society - are frowned upon.

2. Free Love for Everyone

No, no, no! There is no such thing as free love in Riverside!

Everyone lives with their own partners in just as much of monogamous relationships as the rest of New Zealand. There is no partner swap, no swinger parties, no orgies or organised rituals that may happen in some religious cults-turned-communities.

It appears that the the assumption of us being hippies combined with the actual fact that we share property somehow, along the line, turned into Riversiders practicing 'Free Love'. It sure doesn't help that our community started with a religious intent which people put also into the mix. Hippies, communal living, religion... Admittedly, those terms put together may sound a little suspicious. However, if you were to visit Riverside, you would search in vain for people practicing free love. Sorry!

The disappointing truth is that families at Riverside live just like other regular families. There are the parents, the kids, sometimes grandparents, and they all are living in their own houses, sleeping in their own beds. It's just as boring and as simple as that!

3. Communism

Right, this is a fairly common misconception:' Riversiders are Communists'.

No, we are not! If we needed a label for our way of living together which involves indeed the sharing of our resources, than 'Communalists' - if there is such a thing - would be more accurate.

Our community consists of a very diverse bunch of people, coming from all walks of lives with all sorts of political outlooks. Social Justice is a biggie for all of us. The same goes for Pacifism and Sustainability, but when it comes down to upholding a particular political concept or theory, Communism - especially as portrayed in popular culture (you know, the kind of communism that strips a person of their individualism) wouldn't be on the list!

On the political left, most of us may be. But just how far left, differs a lot. Some Riversiders might call themselves socialists and others might shake their head indignantly in response to such a label. Overall, most of us wouldn't like to define our way of social organisation in any other terms than simply saying that Riverside is not upheld by anything other than the commitment to 'peaceful, sustainable and cooperative community living'. And that's it, really...

For more info on what it means to be a member at Riverside Community, click HERE

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