BUILDING A NETWORK OF ECOCITIES:

A VISION OF WO/MEN'S LIBERATION

Presented at the Habitat 2 NGO Conference

Istanbul, Turkey

June 6, 1996

by Doctress Neutopia


 

 

Since I was raised in the First World and not only a First World country, but the country that has been the dominate superpower and the police force of the world, the United States, I grew up believing that America was the greatest country in the world, the land of equality opportunity for all. Even though I was told that I should be happy and that I was lucky to have been born in a free country, as soon as I entered the first grade I begin to feel great unhappiness. Even at such an early age I was feeling that I must compete with my classmates if I wanted to succeed. Since I was labeled with dyslexia and thus placed into "dumb reading group" there was no way that I was going to be able to get the same quality education as the students in the advanced classes. I was condemned.

My first grade teacher made me stay after school to practice my reading, but all I wanted to do was to draw. She told my mother that I should go to art school but that I needed to learn how to read first. I had no interested in reading the elementary books she gave the "dumb" students to read, the simpleton stories of Dick and Jane and their different gender roles. From those books I learned that women's place was in the home and that if I wanted to succeed, I needed to be sexually attractive and submissive to the opposite sex. Then my husband would buy me a house in the suburbs. Yes, I did love to draw, but I drew in my own unorthodoxed style, in a style which surrealists called automatic drawing which allowed the unconsciousness of flow. I guess you could say that I was born a modern artist.

But then came along the art lessons which the first grade teacher inflicted on us. She said that in order to be an artist you had to draw "realistically," that is, drawing in her terms, three dimensional. She wanted us to draw the house with a square and a triangle roof with the mother and father stick figures outside and a yellow sun in the upper corner of the right page. Imposing this world view upon me killed my love for drawing. Since it was the only thing that I excelled at and could spend hours doing, I was crushed when I thought that I was too dumb to do art since I couldn't draw the way the teacher wanted me to.

From then until I was 19 years old I refused to go into a library and shied away from doing art. I became a mediocre student who had a hard time staying in school even though I continued to doodle. Most of what I learned came from TV and movies. I was fortunate that every Saturday for several years they had a series of science fiction movies at the local theater which introduced me to futurist thinking. From the films, my imagination was liberated from my nuclear family house to dreaming about living in a futuristic city, a place where people lived with advanced technology and were free to expressed themselves in the way which came naturally to them. Thinking about life in cities of the future intrigued me especially power relationships between the sexes.

Some of the students who attended my junior high school were from well-to-do families. It was very important for students to look "right" and to wear expensive clothes. Without this, you could never get into the in-crowd who ran the school and were the popular students who also had the boyfriends. Snobbery and exclusiveness were the ways the in-crowd maintained positions of power. And the in-crowd were also the students who were going to be the ones who got to go on to college.

I was never accepted in the in-crowd and some of the most painful experiences of my life were sitting in my room on Saturday night knowing that the in-crowd was having some glamorous party that I had not been invited. These are the nights when I started to analyze my alienated situation and why I felt so forlorn in the best country in the world. I started to question the difference between public space and private space and what social life was all about. This was my way of working through the pain of being excluded from the people who I thought I wanted to be with since they were the ones who only seemed to have the means be able to enjoy life. I remember feeling so low one of these nights when the in-crowd was having a big party and I found comfort in looking at a picture book which was lying around the house about the homes of the American presidents.

My mother sensing how intellectually lost I was arranged for me to be tested to see if the tests could determine where my talent lay. The result of the test was surprising since what I score the highest on was spacial relationships which indicates that I might make a good architect. Girls normally don't test well in those areas. I really didn't know what to think of the test results! Should I try to become an architect? Did I really want to design Mobil oil gas stations, prisons, or huge skyscrapers phallic symbols?

By high school things were changing. The desegregated school laws were becoming a reality and now blacks where being bused into the wealthier schools. Many of my classmates were sent to private schools so that they wouldn't have to be exposed to black students in their classes since some of the well-to-do families thought that blacks brought down the quality of education. Private schools were a way for racist whites to continue to rule through snobbery and exclusion.

Since the old power structure was breaking down with the entry of the blacks into the public high school, new social groups were forming. By this time, I had a group of friends who had cars. We went out together on Friday and Saturday night, but now the problem was different. Where was there to go?

As teenagers we wanted to be at the happening scene, the place where boys who we liked were hanging out. Since there was really no hang-out place, the hang-out place became the parking lot of McDonalds hamburger joint. There we flirted with boys, drank beer, did drugs and got informed as to where the hip party was happening.

On other nights, when a spontaneous gathering didn't occur at McDonalds, we would spend hours driving around the neighborhood looking for where people were hanging out. It was such a waste of time and natural resources, but since there was no place for people to hang-out this was the alternative. I admit that I hung out with a rather wild crowd of girls. We were not like the girls who were the goodie-goodie Christians who eventually become the ones who started to control the social life at the school and whose social life revolved around the Church.

Finally, I went to Mount Vernon College in Washington DC. At this time I began to have a personal revolution after studying the nuclear arms race and failing out of school during the election year. It wasn't safe to walk around Georgetown alone at night since DC was the murder capital of the world, and driving to Georgetown was a serious headache because there was no place to park since this was before the time of the metro being completed.

I began to search within myself for answers as to why the social environment was structured the way it was since I was totally frustrated with trying to locate where people were who I need to connect with. Looking within myself helped me to rediscover myself and reconnect with my artistic nature. I made a vow to devote my life to truth, poetry, and art. Intellectually the idea that intrigued me the most was a word that was used a lot during the '60's and early 70's during the civil, student, women's rights movement, the word Utopia. I wanted to know everything about the word and I now had a reason to read again. My love for Utopia broke the spell that had been placed on me since first grade that I was dumb. Now I was free to purpose my dreams no longer under the illusion that I had no place in a library.

But the contrast between what is and what ought to be became much of a burden for me to bear. I needed help and started to see a psychologist to talk with him about something that very few of my peers and family members would discuss with me, the nuclear arms race and the possibility of nuclear war. I thought we were living in an insane world and I wanted it to change towards a Utopian vision. But what vision? Isn't the bases of all religion a Utopian vision? Why is there war if all the religions of the world are saying the same things about living to create peace? Why had the Christian religion under which I was raise, built a world which was so divided, a world where governments are spending trillions of dollars on weapons while other people live without adequate food, health care and shelter? Why was it difficult for me to conform to the system and become a mother, wife, and businesswoman the way I had been trained to do?

After failing out of Mount Vernon, I went back to North Carolina to live with my parents. But my commitment to art and truth had change my personality. I was not the same person I was when I had left and it was difficult for them to accept their daughter as a thinking being who was questioning the basic foundation of the American dream.

I began to take long walks late at night walking through the wealthy part of town searching for answers. In the neighborhood everyone had so much space, but it was too much space. People basically stayed in their houses, watched television, or listened to music and then came out when there was a party, or when they need to buy something. But there was no sense of community sharing or a place to go to discuss the problems of the world. I began to realized that the "American Dream" of homeownership and a two car garage was not a liberating lifestyle, but one which destroys the possibility of meaningful relationships between people. We had built a consumerist society where we have surrounded ourselves with material possessions rather than meaningful relationships and I wanted no part in it. When I told my parents that I refused to play the money game and get a paying job, they said that I was crazy and sent me into a mental hospital.

At the mental hospital, I learned a great deal about the way the system works to make people into complacent idiots who think that to be sane is to adjust to the consumerist society. If one is rebellious, then the doctors want to put the patient on drugs to help them to become well-adjusted to the capitalist system. When I told one psychiatrist that I thought that there was enough food to feed the world and that what was stopped us was the nation-state system and the greed of global capitalism, he said that was a really crazy idea and that I was foolish to think that I could change the world economy. He said that there was no such thing as Utopia and that if I wanted to live a good life then I was going to have to give up my social idealism and learn to comprise my values like everyone else did.

After getting out of the hospital with my quest for Utopian still in my heart, my parents rented me an apartment in a poorer part of town near the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Now I had the time to write poetry, paint, study, and think. Walking around the university campus, I made another vow to myself which was to try to understand what is wrong with the university, why it had failed to lead people in the direction of building a global utopia. Wasn't it the task of intellectuals to build a good world? Why weren't they doing their job?

That vow guided to the University of Massachusetts to enter the Future Studies program where I pursued the question for ten years receiving my doctorate for writing a dissertation on a feminist theory of architecture and why the built environment is structure to oppress human interaction. Through the work of other scholars, I was able to isolate the archetype causing the problem of living in a patriarchal society, the nuclear family house, the image which my first grade teacher had forced upon me.

Living in the United States the image of the single family house can be seen as the goal we are suppose to be striving to achieve. For example, if I go into the First Bank of Massachusetts and use the automatic teller, there is a commercial on the screen. On the commercial is an image of a house and it says that the bank will help one finance a home mortgage. Then if I go to my computer and fire up Netscape to browse the World Wide Web, there is an image of the single family detached house for the icon for home. Is this really home? I had grown up in a two car, nuclear family house and I was miserable there. I have come to realize that wealth is not being isolated in one's own space the way the rich live in their million dollar mansions, but it is about having quality relationships between people and having people around you so that you can express your personality in order for social organization to develop. A good city is one that has free places for people to gather to exercise their freedom of assembly, but in capitalist America, no such place exists since our cities were not designed to encourage democratic action, but designed to keep the wealthy classes in control of the resources.

Why would I want to have the image of the nuclear family house, the basic economic unit of capitalism, as my life's goal when I know it is only a path to isolation and misery? Was the public being brainwashing into wanting houses in the middle of an acre of land as the ideal happiness? In FUTUROPOLIS Robert Sheckley writes, "Following possibilities opened up by Pavlov, and developed further by B.F. Skinner and others, we find that men can be motivated and controlled by the techniques of operant conditioning, better known as brainwashing. You could be conditioned to love your city whether you like it or not." With the crime rate, auto death rate, murder rate, homelessness rate, child abusive rate, and domestic violence rate as high as they are in American cities as well as cities world-wide who could love them? I believe for the people to go on with business-as-usual when such heinous social conditions exists in our cities means that people have been brainwashed to accept basic injustices within the system which is the fundamental cause of the heinous crimes. If cities are as Lewis Mumford says in THE CULTURE OF CITIES, "man's greatest work of art," our greatest art is miserably failing us.

In one of my art history classes at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I had an assignment to pick out one modern artist and do a research paper on her or him. My choice was Paolo Soleri for his work in designing arcologies, ecological cities. Through his work I got a glimpse into the future, the way the cities could be built to help humanity evolve. From Soleri's designs of arcologies, I could see a network of arcologies forming around Earth and in Outer Space, designed with 21st Century technology to create both social and ecological harmony. I was beginning to see a new archetype in architecture being formed in other people's work as well like in the work of Buckminster Fuller and the Biosphere 2 experiment in Oracle, Arizona which reflects back to a pre-historic era when people had a cosmic sense of time and worked with a collective sense of unity in order to create such great structures as Stonehenge. This is the spirit I have made it my life's mission to help advance.

But how will such a dramatic step from one stage of human cultural evolution to the next happen? Will it happened as a result economic collapse and then we realize that the best way to restructure the wealth is to build ecocities where people share resources? Or will it be a result of a change in the climate due to global warming of the Earth's atmosphere and we will be forced to adopt a new architectural structure which protects us from a hostel environment of our own creation? Or will it be model arcologies built perhaps on the moon or Mars that finally makes us see a better, more efficient way to live by recycling all our wastes? Or are we in the midst of a revolution of conscience and what will save us is a new vision of a network of ecocities as a way to end war by building ecoshelters for both the poor in spirit and poor in the physical necessities of life? But how can a global change in consciousness come about since the nation-states and global corporations want to suppress such radical action? We are enslaved in a world built on the nuclear family house so how do we liberate ourselves?

Unable to get my message to the people, I was hopeless, on the verge of suicide a few years ago until I got involved with the Internet. Now I see a chance for people who share this vision of Neutopia, a new world, where we will able to organize and work out the social architecture needed to build a mass movement around the idea of creating ecological structures. I see virtual communities throughout the Net being formed by people who are profoundly disturbed with the state of the world and who are coming together to try to figure a way to change the direction of development so that we can begin to build the ecocities of our dreams and the wisdom to be able to rule it with love.

Before learning about the Internet, I could only see overpopulated cities overflowing with toxic wastes and unbearable traffic and its resulting pollution for the future. Now after becoming a Netizen, I see a global visionary millennium movement growing and the means to be able to share and spread the blueprints of how to build a network of ecocities necessary for the liberation of humanity electronically flowing throughout the world.

 

 
 

 

 
 
Human Extinction or Lovolution?