Missed the Story
While George Howland Jr.’s article on the Emma Goldman Finishing School wasn’t entirely false, he missed the real story [“The Revolution of Everyday Life,” July 5]. In an hours-long interview with me, I conveyed to him what I thought the real story was. I also told him flatly that I expected him to disappoint—that the real story is simply too important and threatening for a fluffy human interest piece.
The Emma Goldman Finishing School exists because its members believe that the mainstream culture is morally bankrupt and ecologically unsustainable. In a world where 53 percent of the human population lives on less than $2 a day, we believe it’s simply wrong to live blithely as if everyone were middle class, and to participate in an economy that systematically enriches a few at the expense of the many.
Our project is threatening because it compels folks to reflect on their own practices and the degree to which they are complicit in the scandalous impoverishment of people and nature.
None of us at Emma’s believes that we represent a high standard of radical living to be emulated widely; we only insist that at least we’re making the effort. Nonetheless, Howland did exactly what we feared and expected he would. Averting his eyes from the painful truth that lay at the ground of this story, he distracted himself and his readers with the silly and awkward troubles that inevitably bubble at the surface of much deeper waters.
Alternative to Emptiness
Thanks to George Howland Jr. for an interesting, in parts funny, in other parts overly and unnecessarily critical look into Beacon Hill’s anarchist commune [“The Revolution of Everyday Life,” July 5]. Our part of the world is dominated by a money-driven materialistic ethos in which individuals are urged and conditioned to work in order to acquire myriad goods, property, and more money—all of which are supposed to provide satisfaction and fulfillment. A great many citizens who get caught up in this ongoing and sometimes frenetic pursuit of “happiness” are instead left with a pervasive and unsettling sense of frustration, of overwork, and even spiritual emptiness. Thus, it is encouraging that there are still people such as those who comprise the sometimes imperfect and halting social experiments like the Emma Goldman Finishing School who are willing to plunge into living arrangements that emphasize community building, idealistic values, and less materialistic paths to personal enrichment.
Intentional communities—even those that endure over time—can be pulsating scenes of ever shifting persons and personality dynamics. Some are temporary residents who leave for a variety of reasons. Others find communal life tolerable, even satisfying, and have learned various ways to manifest creative compatibility. Shared living arrangements are not for everyone, and many good people who indulge in these experiments eventually do move on. But in our Western world that inculcates the crass and misleading ethic of materialistic surfeit as a means to happiness, alternative visions like the one espoused by the anarchist seekers, political activists, and decent workers of the Beacon Hill commune should be taken seriously.
Little North Korea
I found George Howland Jr.’s article about the Emma Goldman commune interesting, but am baffled why anyone would want to advertise what they’re doing as an appealing lifestyle option, whatever the ideology [“The Revolution of Everyday Life,” July 5]. Let’s review: Dumpster diving for food; a decaying building; dour, stale “revolutionary” dogma; growing resentment among the (dwindling) members of the commune over who’s really doing the work for the meager, equally shared income . . . not a bad lifestyle, for someone in North Korea.
I’ll bet most of them will be Republican suburbanites in 10 years.
Utopia Has Meetings?
Thank you for the article “The Revolution of Everyday Life” [July 5]. I guess it’s nice to know that life in “the new society” is just as bleak and depressing as it is here in the hegemonic monolith of Amazon.com America. I think what got me the most was finding out that “their time is spent in hours of meetings where they carefully construct consensus.” Sheesh, I’d hoped that meetings would be the first thing they got rid of when the revolution finally came.
What a farcical pretense “voluntary poverty” is [“The Revolution of Everyday Life,” July 5]. Real poverty is something much less attractive. It is much grittier, more grim than the lives of these utopians. Kind of nasty, actually. It involves lots of lazy people who smoke a lot, drink a lot, and eat a lot of carbohydrate-filled foods and dress poorly (the greatest sin).
There is way too much dystopia to ever make this type of thing a genuine answer for anyone except disaffected college graduates trying to burn a few years before finally succumbing to jobs, families, and the collective ennui.
“Poverty” that comes with health insurance, retirement, food and shelter, and $400 a month—that’s the kind of poverty I like. Living in the anarchist commune looks like fun.
Stephen Ernest Smith
Knute Berger’s dump on the King County Journal [Mossback, “Yesterday’s Paper,” July 5] was marginally tolerable until this: “The Seattle dailies have adapted better; the Weekly has a suburban foothold.” I nearly fell out of my chair laughing!
The Journal does a decent job of reporting the news and offering intelligent editorial opinion and balanced commentary. By contrast, the Times and P-I are irrelevant, far removed from Eastside life, and increasingly unread.
The impoverished P-I refuses to cover anything outside the Seattle city limits, which is flat-earth thinking. No Eastside story short of a North Korean missile’s direct hit on Redmond’s Microsoft campus ever makes it into that rag anymore.
While the Times has some good Eastside reporters, overall it’s increasingly unreadable, especially whenever Ryan Blethen’s column appears on its editorial page. Those who enjoyed Michelle Malkin’s work when she was there must now read the Journal for commentary. The Times and P-I continue to duke it out in a “who’s the most liberal fish wrap in Seattle” contest.
As for Seattle Weekly, you get what you pay for. It’s usually found next to the Little Nickel, which costs the same, at least helps you find a used car, and whose editorial perspective makes about as much sense. Seattle-centric über snobbery doesn’t fly well in the boondocks.
The Journal may not be Knute’s cup of chai, but at least I can read it with a straight face.
Scott St. Clair
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