On my way back from the grocery store on Saturday there was a hippie bus parked on the street outside my building. This was unexceptional. Outside the bus were a man and a woman, he was tall and thin with a short beard and long black hair tied back, she wore a long printed dress like you’d see in Amish country; he was playing guitar and they were both singing what I assumed were religious songs, judging solely based on their blank, earnest stares. This was also unexceptional. What struck me as unusual, however, was that they didn’t sound terrible. On the folding table next to them was a stack of pamphlets. A pale, skinny young kid got right in my face with a huge smile, handed me one and said “Here! It’s really good reading material!”
“Ok! Thanks!” I said, and left it on my kitchen table for two days. It’s titled We Need A Radical CHANGE, and on the cover is a black-and-white illustrated collage featuring: a race riot; the word HATE; pills; a man grimacing with his eyes tightly clenched and fingers grasping at his temples; an angry black preacher. Turns out they were from the Twelve Tribes community out in Nelson, which, from the sounds of it, is a group on the model of the (mythological) early Christian church, who live according to primitive biblical commandments, particularly those that relate to the position of women.
The first essay, entitled “When the foundations are DESTROYED,” discusses the breakdown of social norms and the foundations of family life. The first instance of rampant moral decay brought to the reader’s attention begins: “Not long ago it would not have been allowed to show a woman with nothing on but her underwear. The town would have boycotted such a store or perhaps the police would have even put a stop to it.” Ah yes, the glorious Godly days of the morality police. “A woman with nothing on but her underwear,” the author huffs, “right there in front of everyone.” Other societal ills include women working outside the home and women taking pain-killers during labour. (The pain bonds them to the child, you see, and the husband is bonded to the wife by empathizing with her suffering. The intelligent designer sure did think of everything!) In fact, the only instances of moral turpitude in which women (as such) are not specifically implicated are high divorce rates (which should really maybe count for half) and our lack of a death penalty for murder.
Needless to say, I was disappointed. I thought I’d finally found the agrarian end-times cult for me, but guess I’ll just have to start my own. In my cult, women will not only be allowed but encouraged to take drugs while only wearing underwear, and even also to have sex with other women, to whom they may or may not be married. My cult will rule! It’ll be just like the sixties, but without the hope.