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Utopian fiction vs. post-apocalyptic reality: great interview  RSS feed

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Via cityfarmer.info, a great interview with the authors of Ecotopia (a 1975 utopian novel, that predicted a lot of the eco-innovations of places like Portland) and Farm City (a recent book about living in the worst part of the city, with hippy values but rebelling against their idealism).

Ernest Callenbach and Novella Carpenter

It is amazing how agreeably they disagree. Together, they see a lot of what's right in intentional communities, and a lot of what's wrong with them, as well.

An excerpt:

The Weeds of Ecotopia

By Jeremy Adam Smith
shareable.net
July 20, 2010
as excerpted by cityfarmer.info

Jeremy Adam Smith: Do you see Ecotopia as a vision that you’re working towards on your farm?

Novella Carpenter: No. The thing is, I’m not part of that. Because that was like my parents’ deal. They were utopians. They were gonna go and live back to the land and all this stuff and I think that’s kind of bullshit. My tendency is to react against that, is to not ever think there’s going to be Utopia. It’s sort of a pessimistic optimism, is what I call it. So, you’re like, “I want to do this thing but everything’s fucked up.” I mean, it’s like that’s what is awesome about Ecotopia, is that everything isn’t fucked up.


Callenbach loosens up re: profanity over the course of the interview, but says work like Novella is doing is like what pioneer species do after a fire.
 
Emerson White
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I've just read the barest bit, and I generally like it, I just wish that she were more articulate. It's sad how  little we as a society have invested in teaching ourselves to communicate well.
 
                          
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I appreciated Novella's perspective though. She's in tough part of town, not the North Berkeley or the Berkeley Hill, she squats, her neighbors squat; I imagine beyond her yard, not a lot of inspiring scenery and so for her to grow the food and garden she does, she gives a lot to the community.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Emerson White wrote:
I've just read the barest bit, and I generally like it, I just wish that she were more articulate. It's sad how  little we as a society have invested in teaching ourselves to communicate well.


Hm...her writing is articulate enough, and my opinion is that her academic credentials and performance as a journalist suggest that one could find much better examples of any decline in the effort our society invests in communications education.

She does write that talking to her neighbors regularly has introduced phrases like "How you?" into her habits of speech. Maybe that's a part of what's bothering you?

For this interview, she seems to be speaking as though it isn't being written down. I appreciate the authenticity, but I also appreciate the work the other interviewee does to speak in a way that makes more sense as written English.

It was an interesting choice, and IMHO a tremendous effort at "communicating well" (regardless of language standardization), how she handled the eminent author's re-interpretation of "TMI." I've never heard that abbreviation used to refer to the quantity of un-differentiated data, only to information with some uncomfortable qualities, and it seems to me he was wrong and she gracefully acknowledged that possibility without being impolite about it.
 
rose macaskie
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gosh joel i can't understnnd a word you say when you talk about practical, material things and i coudl understand you on economics and this which is great on humans.

  I do agree with Novella. i dont know if her ¡name has anything to do with this but i was, when i was young a novel reader and  I dont think novel reading allows you to think that there are utopias, books  are too busy dealing with the complexities of humans and what those complexities can lead to, things which of course are not always nice, to make you believe in utopias.
      On the occasions i have got excited about projects and  people have decided i was having utopic ideas, i always think that the reason i trusted myself was because of the complexity of my ideas or my atention to detail an dall ht epossible unexpected results an action cn have, developed by reading hunks of literature i did not expect an utopia tha t was built by an uncomplex me but i found that others had no idea about what went on in my head so they could imagine i based my dreams on as silly a base as they fancied.
      It takes a very long time to let people know what goes on in your head and they try very hard to stop you talking of anything seriouse they are so keen on being the seriouse ones . It has been very painfull trying to bring people to know the way i thought.  When at last you manage  to get out an idea you hav ealways had and tha had they ever bothered to listen to you or observe yu had they cared fo ryou at all htey would have known aboutwithout you having to styuff it down their throat, they pretend that their opposition has taught you the complex part. That is annoying.

      It is probably the story of many that they have not when they were young imagined tha tthey had to talk a lot on heavy an dso noramlly considered not very social topics or others would ascribe what ever ideas they fancied to them. It is a tremendous e fight not to be done down, it is unfriendly and nasty pushing yoursel on others so they cant decide you are not good at anything and the memory of how easy it was for htem to decide i was stupid and simple leaves me disliking them and i like liking others. I Like others to behave in a way that makes it easy to have good feeling like likeing them more than i like to be liked.
  When i get exccited about pssibilitie it was always within the basis of happiness within a frame work that is not perfect but others may imagine I have dreampt of extremly unreal happyness on these occasion, so i sypathise with novelas parents to.

  On th esubject of wha tmakes people happy. The television "suvival" guy said survival in extreme stiuactions has to do with being inventive. He was talking about the miners of chile recently rescued, about them baring their time down the mine, so he was talking about how to bare the uncertainty. I  enjoy being invetive it makes  me happy when i am in the garden, thinking of things to do to the garden an ddong them does. In theory i do things for others to appreciate but it seems that i am happy inventing or making things others have invented, trying it out for myself, though no one comes, a reality that has nothing to do with my expectations about activities, I always thought happyness should come from satisfactory  interrelations with others.

Converstaion is easier in bits of society that have a carefully structure rules for conversation, where you take turns sort of free-ish turns but turns, where you arent afraid people are going to nit pick you. I have, in adult life spent most of my time with those for whom the verbal game is stopping me  talking or only listening to me  so as to be able to nit pick what I say, or only lettign me talk about frivolouse topics that reduce me. .  It makes me  feel a bit lonely. I have had to fight to be heard in a way that make nit picking hard to do. If you explain yourself well enough it is hard for others to change what you say.  It means obliging others to listen. I have had to learn to oblige people to listen to me it is what i call learning the art of verbal street fighting.

      It has made me reflect that academicness is as  much gained going through  things from top to bottom, taking them to pieces and reconstructing them, somthing hard to do with those who nit pick you, brainstorming and  such, as it has to do with knowledge and that is what  you have to teach if you aren't fortunate enough to live among those who are disciplined thinkers, if you want to converse with them. Maybe you wont succeed till after your dead as in other projects humans take up.
   
  I knew a woman who always said she had no problems with groups, and I always thought, "no you always manage to get others in a half nelson, they never give you any problems". rose macaskie.
   
 
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