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« Rolling back Blackwater | Main | Converging »

Sep 26, 2007


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The CA

The problem is she wants us to assign some significance to her lifestyle choice, and we just don't care. Sorry.

From her website:

"I eat food out of the dumpster, I ride my bike, I dry my clothes on a clothesline. I live on very little money but I am wealthy in time. And I grow braver as I get older."

Sounds like the Manson Family. Yeah, that's what I want to do. I'm being a silly hippy. Notice me! Notice me! Please notice me!

Ed Cone

If you don't care, why do you need to trash her?

The Manson family committed mass murder. I don't think these folks have killed even one person.

If it matters to her, and perhaps to others, why shouldn't they write about it?

I like to think there's some significance to my lifestyle choice. It's significant to me, at least, and my family. I don't need everyone else to feel that way, or to make the same choices, nor do I need to have people put me down for the way I choose to live.

Dave Dobson

There you go again, Sam. That's just like calling Edwards Jim Bakker. The Mansons aren't famous for living communally, they're famous for murdering folks. Geez. You're starting to remind me of Adolf Hitler with your criticism by spurious comparison.


"You're starting to remind me of Adolf Hitler with your criticism by spurious comparison."

Gee Dave, I guessed I missed it.

Did he call her a "fringe scientist" or something?



Considering that you often complain about people making personal attacks on others, I'm confused as to why you see fit to make a personal attack on Ms. Seymour, especially considering how utterly unprovoked it is.

The CA

Hmmm...she did ask the question "Why is collective living so far off the mental map for most people?" didn't she?

All I did was answer it. Speaking for myself only, of course. I don't relish the idea of living off of garbage like the Manson Family (and they DID- look it up). So that is one reason why it is "so far off the mental map" for me. Further, I also detect a sense of disappointment in her words that more people aren't paying attention to her and her commune, hence my remarks about attention.

Sorry you don't like my answer, but I didn't ask the question. And John & Elizabeth Edwards do remind me of Jim & Tammy. Sorry you don't like that opinion either.

The CA

P.S. Uh oh, unpopular opinion alert...gather the troops...

Ed Cone

I don't think it's the unpopularity of the opinion, Sam -- very few people live the way she does -- as much as it is the sneering tone you took about someone who is doing you no harm.

Certainly she is opening herself up for comments by posting about her life and her beliefs online, and writing earlier in the NYT.

Your harsh words just seem unnecessary, but I guess they satisfied you in some way.


Exactly - I have no problem with the opinion. I don't think I'd like to live like that either. It's the unprovoked derisive and mocking tone that I'm questioning. Again, especially considering that you take issue when other people do the same to you.

The CA

People who willingly eat out of the trash can when they don't have to and brag about it are worthy of some ridicule because that is just plain stupid for a number of reasons, health being at the top. Ridiculous actions deserve mocking responses. I could go on- for example, how do you live in an "anarchy" within your own home? Such foolishness seem calculated to draw attention.

Sorry folks, but some things when done by educated adults are just plain silly.


We don't get the lifestyle, and our feelings towards hippies are quite well-known, but we aren't going to compare them to the Manson family. But we do think that living like that is a way of avoiding the world around them - like playing house as a grownup.

Dave Dobson

Wow, Bubba seems to be immune to irony. But maybe I knew that already.

Ed Cone

"Avoiding the world around them."

How's that, Gate? How is your lifestyle more engaged in the world?

I did say this in the previous thread: "Liz say she's trading future economic security for life in the moment. In some ways, that's no different from gorging on credit card debt and consumerism in classic boomer style." In other words, the reality-avoidance to which she cops is pretty routine in the wider culture.

Dumpster-diving is not my thing, but I presume these folks aren't dining on offal. The "real world" throws a way a lot of edible, even palatable, stuff. It also eats a lot of fried, processed crap that may be less healthy than day-old bread and such.

Yes, the appropriation of the word "anarchist" is a stretch in this case.

My own lifestyle conforms so closely to societal norms that you could build a '50s TV show around it, and I am not planning to chuck my haute bourgeois existence for group living anytime soon. I'm all for mocking the mockable, and I would hope that Liz & Co. laugh at themselves much as any healthy home does.

It just seems to me there's a level of scorn and hostility here that may say more about the commenters than the commentees.

Patrick Eakes

I wonder how you pronounce "g8te"

John G

Patrick; I think that would be "gate"?
I lived in a similar home (many, many years ago) in Florida for awhile. (never ate out of a dumpster)


I lived as such also but I think we called it college or something like that.

Patrick Eakes

Funny, it looks like "gatete" to me.

The CA

It says I'm a humorless, mean-spirited person. I have a pretty good track record of making fun of hippies because they are funny and pathetic at the same time.


To each their own, but we still think living in such a manner is an attempt to ignore the rest of the world - conventions, norms, and pretend to be in something different altogether. Living in such a manner seems to me more of tuning out the world around them than being engaged in it.

And, hey, don't we get any credit around here for not comparing them to suicidal killers or calling them communists.

Joe Killian

I did a feature on Seymour's house and collective living for the N&R some time ago -- and I spent some time there, observing them.

The "dumpster diving" and "eating from dumpsters" is, indeed, closer to what Ed is talking about -- scavenging perfectly good food that is thrown away by grocery stores, perfectly good items that are thrown away by people who no longer want them. What I observed was not in any way a health risk. I ate dinner with them, knew where all the food came from and found it delicious and, frankly, much healthier than much of what I eat every day. At that time one of the house mates was a professional chef and his skills were on full display.

I haven't engaged in "collective living" since I ran a college dorm, really -- and you could argue we weren't really living collectively then. But I agree that it's not really any stranger -- and certainly not more dangerous -- than many of the states and conditions of living we find completely normal.

When I lived in New England I found that there were a lot of families who, by choice, lived in the same house, or two-family house, well after it was strictly necessary. Especially with my friends who were of Italian, Polish or Russian ancestry it wasn't uncommon for a nuclear family to start as a mother, father and child -- and then, after the child left home and got married, the new couple would move into a two-family home adjoining the parents to raise their family or a single child would move into a two-family home with the parents next door or downstairs. Not because the original parents were old and infirm necessarily -- they just liked the familial closeness and it was pretty culturally normal. The living was separate in the sense that they didn't all sleep together, but they often ate meals together, shared expenses, regularly were in each others' houses (which were often separated only by a flight of stairs and a door). It was, essentially, one large house that had people from seven to seventy sharing everything and living as one big unit. I was reminded of this very strongly when spending time in Seymour's house. The largest difference I saw was that these people weren't related -- they chose to live together rather than having it happen by circumstance.

It's a way of living that doesn't particularly appeal to me because of my personality -- but I could also say that of the lifestyles of people who chose not to live together before being married, a lifestyle choice based as much on personal values and goals as Seymour's clan's. But I don't feel hostile toward those people, even when they tell me their way of living is THE way (and they often, often do here in the South).

The CA

I don't feel hostile to them either. I just think its kind of silly as described by Seymour. Not so much the living arrangments, but the garbage eating and the anarchy. Hippy stuff.


First of all, the Manson family comparison is ridiculous. The people living in the house described here are some of the nicest and most creative people I've met. They are constantly active in the community, always hospitable to guests, and just generally very pleasant to be around.

Second of all, to classify a lifestyle that focuses on caring about one's health, one's environment, and one's friends and family as "hippy stuff" is simply ignorant. Striving for a household which has less of an impact on a world that is being abused and misused to an alarming degree is noble, not silly. What is wrong with riding your bike instead of driving a car? Or getting perfectly edible food out of a dumpster, thats been thrown away because the stores attemping to serve it to people can't turn over a profit on it anymore? Lots of non-corporate stores donate their slightly older produce to soup kitchens and charities, and even some corporate ones do, but the vast majority of grocery stores simply throw it away. This country tosses out 96 billion pounds of safe, edible food every year while there are millions who don't have enough to eat.

As far as your labeling of anarchism as "silly" and "calculated to draw attention," I believe this bespeaks a deep ignorance of the rich political history of the libertarian left, not to mention an ignorance of what anarchism means in the first place. It is simply life without hierarchy. It is a belief in the ability of people to manage their own lives, to manage their economic and social interactions with each other, on their own terms and without the oversight of a wealthy or politically powerful elite. The word "anarchist" has been so terribly misused for so long, though, that I don't blame you for your ignorance, I just wish you'd be more open-minded with things that you don't really know anything about.

Liz Seymour isn't writing this to draw attention to herself or to belittle anyone else's lifestyles. She is a writer, she is writing about her life, and in doing so, introducing as a viable option a way of life that most people would not know enough about to consider. She is trying to educate people about collective living having experienced it (and currently experiencing it) first-hand. If you don't want to hear about it, if you so desperately disapprove of her way of life, why read the article, comment, and argue? If you have something constructive to contribute to discussion, who's to stop you? But why waste your time so strongly expressing your disapproval when there could be people reading the article who are genuinely interested in the subject?


Collective living can be amazing and inspiring. It's not about connecting some false significance because it is significant. Creating a family out of people who are not your bloodkin and living with them is not generally done in this country and poses a plethora of unique challenges. It also opens up an entirely different perspective. I would love to write more on this topic but I'm in a rush to go to work.

Dumpsters=Foodsource. (It's ok. You don't need to get upset about this.)
Liz=Lots of love.

Collectives aren't just for "hippies". I don't acctually know an "hippies" that live in collectives.

To those of you who do live in collectives: What have you found to be the most successful route to conflict resolution? That is something that I find applicable to my every day life and those who live in collectives often have to get creative. Any suggestions? (Beyond bashing, that is.)

The CA

Anarchy: "....on their own terms and without the oversight of a wealthy or politically powerful elite."

How exactly do you do that within one household? As soon as you step outside you are confronted by the hierarchy of the law. I didn't realize that I was living under a "wealthy or politically powerful elite" within the confines of my parents house growing up. Taken to its logical conclusion, children in the hippy house would have no rules lest they be governed by a "wealthy or political powerful elite".

There is nothing profound or revolutionary or responsible about hippy gobedly-gook. That's why I think it's funny. Harmless and funny. I also question how much the "anarchy" within the household would stay in place if a conservative moved in. I bet he/she would find the sudden appearance of a "politically powerful elite" emerge within the "commune" against them.

Ed Cone

"...without the oversight of a wealthy or politically powerful elite."

I believe the old-timey expression for this, in domestic terms at least and with gender-role implications aside, was "a man's home is his castle."

I'm not sure how a group home is more removed from the oversight of a wealthy or politically powerful elite than any other home.

There are power dynamics within my home, but they don't really involve the government or the bankers. I'm guessing that power dynamics arise at least occasionally within "anarchist" group homes, too.

"...if a conservative moved in."

Always the victim, even in imaginary circumstances.

Danny Wright

I doubt they would have much problem living harmoniously with a conservative.

Now a blowhard, that's a different matter.


I didn't say that they were living outside of the law within their own home, or that they were living outside of our current system. They're simply trying to live on a small scale what they believe would be beneficial to society on a large scale: economic cooperation instead of competition, and a very open and accepting social atmosphere.

Although I don't think a conservative person would be of a mind to move into such a household, I believe that part of the philosophy of communal living is acceptance of other people's ideas and beliefs as their own. Compromises must be made to accommodate the needs and wishes of all their residents.

My experience with children in a communal home has been a very positive one. The relationship between child and parent is more level than in a conventional household. I'm not saying this is the only way to raise a child, I was raised in a fairly standard single-parent house myself. It is not that the children have no rules, but the rules that are in place allow for a greater degree of personal freedoms. Thats basically the key to the whole thing: its not lawless chaos, it is freedom with true respect for the freedoms of others.

David Wharton

I don't think "Collective Living" realy is very far off most people's mental map.

"Collective living" also goes by the names of "having roommates" or "sharing a house." Undergrads, graduate students, postdocs, and young professionals do it all the time. So do old people (like Share-a-Home here in GSO).

Most people don't do it in middle age because they like privacy and don't want to have to constantly monitor/screen the people who will be sharing space with their kids. And I doubt that most housemates would be willing to put up with the kind of silly stuff that most teenagers regularly dish out to their parents, or listen to babies crying in the middle of the night, for that matter.

For most people raising families, Collective Living's costs probably outweigh the benefits.

The CA

"Compromises must be made to accommodate the needs and wishes of all their residents."

We call that government. Perhaps the exclusion of "conservatives" as unfit for such an arrangement is exactly why it is a foolish premise. It only works when everyone essentially thinks alike, and the world doesn't work that way.

Again, it's not the living arrangements but the wacky ideological premises that Seymour uses in its defense that I find humorous.


We want to live in a collective with Monica Bellucci. We would dumpster dive with her in a heartbeat.

vann newton

Liz Seymour writes: "I set up the collective house five years ago in what had been my nuclear family home...I’d love to create a place on the internet for people to come with questions and answers about collective living. Please don’t be shy about joining in the conversation."
Liz clearly invites dialogue concerning questions people may have about living in a collective house, yet I have only found one serious question in all the posts here. The rest is just unfounded criticism based on FEAR. I am a neighbor of this collective and they are actually the most accessible, loving and creative people I have found in my community and I applaud all their efforts. I wish that those of you who criticize could see fully the impact this collective has on the community and the world at large, but I certainly haven't the time or space here to shine light for the blind.....but.....Liz has asked for your questions, so hit her up with all your intelligent offerings and queries and see where it leads. She is a true beacon of light and goodness and we all should count our blessings to have her and her housemates moving among us, showing us another way to be. Greensboro has the been called "a place of wide lawns and narrow minds", so please try diligently not to prove it so, after all, these thoughts of ours are open to the universe once posted in cyberspace.


"To each their own, but we still think living in such a manner is an attempt to ignore the rest of the world - conventions, norms, and pretend to be in something different altogether. Living in such a manner seems to me more of tuning out the world around them than being engaged in it."

It makes me wonder.. what is the "rest of the world".. certainly there is much much more world out there then the high paced consumer based world that our country provides us with. Of the estimated 6,602,224,175 people in the world only 301,139,947 are American. Unfortunately also the "norm" for many of the other 6,301,084,228 people in the world is much closer to what seems to be going on in the 406 collective. An incredible amount of food is wasted in the US, while children starve in poorer countries and even here in the States. Even the "rest of the world" here is faced with in numeral hardships that are ignored by the people wrapped up in the conventions and norms. Instead of conforming it seems that these self-proclaimed anarchists are just choosing their own path.. The definition of anarchy in this context is not used in some sort of punk rock vigilante chaos form, but in a right of people to choose what is best for themselves form.Which isn't that the idea that this country is based upon? The Constitution was written to protect the natural rights of the citizens, now it seems that the natural rights are spelled out for us instead of taking the interest and time to choose for oneself. Liz Seymour is my mother and trust me I know first hand how shocking some of her life choices can seem from the outside. Even though my sister and myself had been involved with alternative lifestyles the idea of my MOTHER doing the same has been an adjustment.. But I have learned so much! The best life lesson I have gotten is that all people deserve to find a way to make themselves happy.. I know that plenty of people are happy living their lives as the do now and I would never urge anyone to change.. Just as i would never ask my mother to change. i don't think the message that my mother is trying to get across is to in anyway encroach on the views of others, only to share her own.. and maybe if there are people out there unhappy with the way the world is going on a larger or personal scale they can find some solace in finding alternatives the the norms that are presented to us today. What is life with out options? What is freedom with out alternatives to choose from?

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